You should consider cover crops

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

This is your last call and reminder to get your tickets for the Farm Science Review which is held each year in London, Ohio. Dates are Sept. 19, 20 and 21. Harvest has not quite started yet so you should have the time to check out all that is offered.

Visitors will be able to see over 4,000 product lines exhibited by 640 exhibitors.

Educational presentations, demonstrations and displays are ongoing throughout the three days. There will be research tours on water quality, nutrient management and other topics in partnership with Ohio State and Beck’s Hybrids.

Visitors seeking credits for Certified Crop Advisors (CCA) or pesticide application recertification should check the event schedule on the FSR website.

Shuttle wagons will be leaving from the west end of the show site throughout the day to transport visitors to the Gwynne Conservation Area where there will be a focus on wildlife, woodland and aquatics educational opportunities, as well as a streambank protection installation.

Shuttle wagons will also take visitors to a variety of field demonstrations featuring different agronomic operations. Demonstrations include drainage installation, UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles), cornstalk baling and much more. To get the full schedule of events, a map and even a phone app, see for more information.

Cover crops will be one topic that will be covered in many ways during the farm science review. Cover crops are becoming more popular in SW Ohio for many reasons.

The key to success with cover crops is to get them seeded in a timely manner. Alan Sundermeier, OSU Extension ANR Educator in NW Ohio, has many producers utilizing cover crops and looking at different methods to establish cover crops.

Sundermeier suggests as soybeans are maturing around Ohio, an opportunity to establish an early cover crop is available. If a farmer waits until after soybean harvest, then many days of growth are being wasted.

It is recommended that soybeans should have dropped 10% of their leaves before seeding a cover crop. Planting too early, the cover crop may have too much growth and interfere with combine operation and green material separation.

Waiting too late will place the seed on top of fallen leaves and not contact the soil properly. The idea is to place the seed on the soil, then have soybean leaves cover and mulch the cover crop seed to enhance germination.

Cover crops can be aerial seeded by plane or helicopter. Sundermeier highly recommends using an experienced pilot who can calibrate the application and control seed drop location. Also a high clearance sprayer can be used that is adapted for seed delivery.

Following tram lines will lessen the damage to soybeans from wheel tracks.

Germination success may be more difficult with broadcast seeding versus drilling or planting. Therefore, seeding rates may need to be increased about 25% to result in a similar stand of cover crops compared to those drilled. Ideally, seeding before a rainfall will get the cover crops off to a quick start.

Species like brassicas (radish), oats, buckwheat, and other frost sensitive cover crops need to be seeded before soybean harvest to ensure enough growing time before killing frost. Frost-tolerant species such as cereal rye (at 1-2 bushel per acre) can be seeded into late fall.

A mixture of cover crop seed such as; radish, crimson clover, and oats would do well seeded into standing soybeans. A rate of 2 pounds radish, 15 pounds crimson clover, and 30 pounds oats per acre are rates for minimum soil coverage.

Annual ryegrass (at 30-60 pounds per acre) will also do well seeded into standing soybeans. Top growth is less than cereal rye yet root growth is deeper and more aggressive than cereal rye.

With any cover crop that overwinters, have a plan in place for termination next spring.

Sundermeier also notes that large seed size, such as Austrian Winter Pea, do not do well in broadcast seeding applications. Large seeded cover crops need to be incorporated into the soil for better seed/soil contact for germination.

NRCS has a very good bulletin on Aerial seeding of cover crops – Aerial Seeding of Cover Crops – NRCS Technical bulletin Agronomy #36.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for 29 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

Tony Nye

OSU Extension