Stutzman discusses various factors to consider before start
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Jon Stutzman of Stutzman Crop Care, Inc., advised farmers about good cover crop choices at the No-Till & Cover Crop Winter Conference of North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development held Thursday, Dec. 13 at Hawk Pointe Golf Club.
As crop rotation decreased, soil health has deteriorated. Modern markets don’t provide an incentive to rotate, Stutzman pointed out. Another issue is modern manure management eliminates the introduction of carbon-rich bedding which stabilizes nitrogen in the soil.
Many factors go into the decision about which cover crop to choose, Stutzman pointed out. Each farmer must factor in the dates he wants to plant, his planting methods, how much he wants to spend on cover crops, if the goal is to fix nitrogen in the soil and if he needs to reduce compost, among other things.
A soybean-wheat multi species cover, a corn/small grain cover or no-till soybean can all be effective, but multi species tends to be the best.
For early planting covers (July-August) legumes may produce the best return.
For mid-season (September-October) a mix of annual rye grass, clover and radishes, possibly enhanced by barley has the advantage of low seed cost. Oats offer the advantage that the crop doesn’t have to be terminated.
Late planting (November) wheat or rye may not afford cover until spring and may not be worth the cost and effort, Stutzman said.
How the seeds for the cover crop go in also matters, Stutzman said.
Seeding from the air produces inconsistent results, he said, and is expensive.
Broadcast seed by a ground seeder is fast and fine for small grains. A grain drill creates better seed/soil contact and saves money and time.
Stutzman recommends rye versus wheat in the area of small grains. It is most aggressive and produces the most biomass.
However, it might require earlier spring termination.
He pointed out legumes aren’t a great cover crop because fall growth is minimal, but they are good for fixing nitrogen if given enough time in the soil.
He also noted any cover with a small root mass helps with soil compaction. In some locations radishes reduce compaction and scavenging nitrogen.
Many farmers like to use saved seeds, but he noted it’s necessary to know where they came from and that they don’t contain pig weed or water hemp.
Stutzman takes his own advice on his family’s crop farm in Kutztown.
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