Agronomy Library

Preventing Cover Crops From Becoming a Weed

Titan Pro
February 28, 2017

The best definition of a weed I know is a “plant out of place.”

Cover crops have captured a lot of media attention over the last few years. These very specific plants all have the ability to reduce erosion and capture and hold extra nutrients in the soil solution like nitrogen, and sulfur. Brassicas have a unique quality of capturing extra phosphate from one season to the next. If you’re a livestock operator you may be able to capture several extra tons per acre of forage feed.

I see cover crop success in a four-stage plan:

  1. Decide the specific objective for utilizing a cover crop. Erosion control, nutrient capture, or extra feed tonnage, are all good reasons. Another reason that’s gaining in scientific validity is significant improvements in soil health from using cover crops.
  1. Carefully choose the best species, or a mix of species to attain your goal. Cereal rye is the most utilized species in the upper Midwest, and it can accomplish most all of our discussion in step 1. Two other plant groups that can add utility and diversity to the mixes are brassicas and legumes. Radishes, turnips, and mustards are in the brassica plant group. Legumes include clovers, peas, and vetches. The addition of these groups can improve nutrient capture, feed quality, and definitely promote soil health.
  1. This one will sound out of place, but it’s the reason for this article, choose the best method to terminate the cover crop. Establish the plan, and DO NOT deviate from it. It could be as simple as allowing the cover crop to winter kill. Using oats and radishes fit this plan well. More than likely when using cereal rye we’ll use a herbicide program. Presently, cereal rye is effectively killed with a solid rate of Glyphosate. This could also be a good time, depending on the timing of the application, to add perhaps a 2,4-D amine for winter annuals, and certainly, a pre-emerge for the upcoming crop could fit as well.
  1. The last stage, GET THE CROP PLANTED. If this is to follow corn silage, seed corn harvest, or possibly soybeans, a drill would be the preferred method. In a standing crop, corn or soy, aerial applications, or hi-boys with air driven systems can work well. These last two methods do rely on mother nature to rain in a timely manner to germinate the seed.

If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

These very specific plants have the ability to reduce erosion and capture and hold extra nutrients in the soil solution.