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Instead of terminating a cover crop prior to no-tilling corn, soybeans or another crop, more growers are planting through a still growing green cover crop. Seeding a cash crop into a growing green cover crop that may range in height from just a few inches to over 6 feet tall allows both crops to grow longer in the spring.
The idea behind “planting green” is to make better use of spring moisture, reduce soil erosion, be able to graze cover crops in the spring, build more root biomass in the soil, improve weed control and increase fertility along with a number of other benefits.
In the first-ever Cover Crop Benchmark Study conducted in 2020 for our Cover Crop Strategies publication, 48% of growers had planted cash crops into a living cover crop. When planting green, 70% had planted soybeans, 51% corn for grain, 8% corn for silage and 4% winter wheat.
Our results were very similar to those of growers who participated in the 2020 cover crop survey sponsored by USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education group and the Conservation Technology Information Center. In this survey, which included growers using all tillage practices, 52% of the growers had planted green during the year. Some 26% planted two-thirds of their summer crops into a green cover crop. Yet 23% planted less than 20% of their acreage into green cover crops.
About one-third of these growers indicated planting green made management simpler while another one-third felt it was more complex…