No-Tilling Into Live Cover Crops Could Mean Early Seeding Benefits

Experimental system could protect soil and moisture while overcoming the problems of cold, wet ground.

Something has to change! For the third year in the past four, dry summer weather here in mid-Missouri severely reduced my dryland corn yields.

So, my plan is to fight Mother Nature’s tendency to give me too little rain when I want it and too much when I don’t.

This plan starts in the fall, because the centerpiece of the whole system is the establishment of a healthy, thick and vigorous stand of wheat or rye as a cover crop.

Annual ryegrass might also work, but I have had no experience with it.

The cover crop will be no-tilled or broadcast after harvest. The soil will retain its structure and, in combination with the live cover crop, should allow lightweight no-till planters to seed earlier in the spring than would be the case with heavier planters.

I’ll use row cleaners to partially clear a path where the corn will be no-tilled.

In the fall, I’ll apply 30 to 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre as early as possible to get maximum cover crop growth.

Spring Opportunity

In the spring, the neighbors should notice nice-looking wheat fields, not knowing that the wheat will all be dead about the first of May.

The residual nitrogen from the fall application will help the newly emerged corn in the spring until additional nitrogen is sidedressed.

Also in the spring, I will watch for a window of opportunity to no-till corn into the living wheat or rye 1 to 3 weeks earlier than I normally…

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