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Should You Rotate Your Cover Crops? 4 Issues to Consider

Some covers planted back to back, year after year, can cause problems for no-tillers with root and soil diseases if selection and timing isn’t carefully managed, says Dave Robison.

(Editor’s note: This article appeared in a 2019 issue of Direct Driller and originally in AgFuse.)

Growers probably know crop rotation is a good thing as it helps prevent pests and disease, improves soil health and reduces fertilizer inputs — all of which can boost crop yields and the bottom line.

Adding cover crops to the mix can diversify rotations even more. But should growers rotate cover crops just like they do with cash crops, or be using the same cover-crop species back to back, year after year?

Avoiding Clubroot

Dave Robison, an agronomist for Legacy Seeds, says there’s value in rotating covers, especially if they’re using brassicas and peas. Robison warns that growers who continually use brassicas in cover-crop mix need to consider doing some level of rotation.

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • Growing brassicas back to back — mainly turnips, but also radishes — can result in clubroot, a disease that attacks a brassica’s roots and be detrimental to crops like canola.  
  • Peas seeded in back-to-back years could breed white mold and other pathogens that could affect subsequent crops.
  • Use caution when saving cereal-grain seed and using it for several years, as it could harbour diseases such as ergot or rust and result in dockage for the following crop.

The reason is that growing brassicas back to back — mainly turnips, but also radishes — can result in clubroot — a disease that attacks a brassica’s roots.

While this can result in an unhealthy cover crop, for farmers who grow brassicas…

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Laura-allen_c

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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