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With all of the talk about modifying no-till planters and adjusting fertilizer rates to increase profits, some believe that one of the best kept secrets to a successful no-till operation lies in the ability to keep plants in the soil as long as you can.
Of course, we’re talking about cover crops. It’s a prime subject for Frank Martin and Pat Sheridan Jr., two of no-till’s biggest advocates of the benefits of cover crops and how they fit perfectly into the fundamentals of no-till.
Martin, of Hallsville, Mo., explains that he was motivated by soil conservation. “A couple of years ago, I decided I didn’t want to settle for minimal soil loss,” he says. “I wanted no soil loss. A neighbor told me that the only way this was possible was to plant into sod. That’s basically what I’m doing with cover crops.”
Like many no-tillers, Martin believed that to use a cover crop effectively, he needed to burn it down a week or two prior to planting. This, he says, is a mistake.
“Two years ago I sprayed the rye in the latter half of April, but there were patches as big as a car or bigger where I didn’t get a good kill,” he says. “Then I realized the voles had migrated to those areas and eaten the beans as they came up, so I grew weeds instead of beans in those patches.
Martin used a different approach the next year. He still planted…