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Cereal rye and winter wheat are two of the most commonly used cover crops for corn and soybean growers, but there are some alternative cover crops with a lot of potential for helping improve soil health and cash crop yield. Esther Duraraj, research agronomist with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wis., has been working on trials involving less common cover crops, including buckwheat, sunn hemp and cowpeas
One alternative cover crop that could have some serious upsides in terms of combating weeds and increasing biomass is buckwheat.
“It is a pretty sensitive crop, but it grows very quickly and will help prevent erosion, compete with annual perennial weeds, and it’s typically ready for incorporation in 35 days,” Durairaj says. “It also produces the highest biomass within 35-45 days, so the recommendation is to terminate the cover crop within 7-10 days after flowering because we don’t want to let it go to seed.”
Durairaj says some growers will terminate buckwheat and then grow another crop of it a couple times during a season to maintain good weed control and continue to increase biomass.
“Honey bees and bumble bees also love this crop,” Durairaj says. “So if you want to help provide flowers for them and continue to have natural activities going on in your fields, it’s a great cover crop.”
This cover crop species is a legume and has the ability to fix between 100-150 pounds of nitrogen (N) per acre.
“The important thing is…