No-tiller Steve Groff told attendees at the 1998 National No-Tillage Conference that cover crops provide his no-till operations with numerous benefits. Groff says cover crops:
Hairy vetch is a great cover crop prior to no-tilling corn. If you are willing to wait longer to plant corn and sacrifice some yield, the nitrogen produced by hairy vetch will reduce input costs and offset yield reductions.
“Vetch might give you 50 to 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre,” Groff says. “Crimson clover matures about a week earlier, but it doesn’t put out as much nitrogen. Even if you don’t allow vetch to mature fully, it probably has as much nitrogen as crimson clover.”
“Sometimes I no-till wheat right after pumpkin harvest and you can consider wheat a cover crop, too,” Groff says. “It helps protect the soil over the winter.” Not only is erosion from runoff reduced, but the tall growth cuts down dramatically on wind erosion.
There’s no bare ground for weeds to get a foothold and a year-round cover of growing matter provides the ultimate canopy against weeds. “I don’t really have a perennial weed problem and I credit that mostly to crop rotations,” Groff says. “Included in that crop rotation is an alfalfa-grass mix that keeps those perennial weeds from building up.”
“You get better nutrient utilization because you are feeding the animals that live in the soils and do your…
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