Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cover crop status

Dr. Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

We seeded our cover crops during on 09-05-2013 for 2014 field study that will focus on the use of cover crops and conservation tillage practices in vegetable production systems. The plot is located at the Horticulture research Station, Ames, IA. So far cover crops are doing great. Pictures below were taken on 09-26-2013.

This was the second seeding of cover crops as the first seeding was not uniform. We decided to tear the plot and seed again. Both times Tye Pasture Pleaser seeder was used. The reason for the non-uniform germination of the first seeding was attributed to seeding depth. Cereal rye is sensitive to seeding depth. Although we had set the seeding depth between 1 to 1-1/4 inch, close examination of showed that the majority of seeds were at 1-3/4 to 2 inch deep. One would assume the rye to germinate and emerge at that seeding depth, but it is debatable. In our experience, the second seeding, in which rye was seeded at 3/4 to 1 inch depth, germination was excellent and the emergence was uniform (see pictures above).

Growers should monitor the seeding depth carefully as it could significantly affect emergence of cover crops. Small seeded cover crops like clovers and mustard should be handled even more carefully. 

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