Friday, June 27, 2014

Western Cover Crops Thread

I really liked this answer to the question to why should I plant cover crops where it never rains enough?  The radish on my tailgate really improve my soil but will they in Kansas where it doesn't rain?

"As has been mentioned it will lessen evaporation. It will also lessen runoff so more moisture is captured from a rain.

First off, you have to establish what your goals are. Nitrogen fixation? Suppress weeds? Erosion reduction? Building organic matter? Then you can select when and what crops to plant to help achieve the goals. You have to truly believe and want to succeed with cover crops or else you might as well not bother. If you go in negative, you will never have any success.

You have to think more long term when attempting to build soils. Will I use a little extra moisture? Maybe, but how much is each pound of topsoil you save from erosion worth to you? How much is not having a face full of dirt ever time the breeze comes up worth to you? How much is an increase of 1% organic matter worth to you?

If you can or think you can grow dryland beans, then you have plenty of moisture to implement cover crops in your rotation. If it doesn't rain, nothing will grow anyway.

To me, trying to grow a cover crop between continuous wheat won't make much sense. However, between wheat and beans/corn would be a great time. Between corn and milo you could grow a nice crop of rye. Just have to be creative and experiment.

There is likely a bit of a cut in short term profitability, however that is the tradeoff for doing what you feel will benefit down the road.

Weeds are a trick if you are using a diverse mix. Get your crop growing good and it will choke out the weeds. If your weeds come up right along with the crop you can get into some trouble. That is where it is handy to have some cattle to go out and graze it off if you get some weeds coming. Like I said, experiment, see what works, etc.

As with anything, start small, see what works and what doesn't for you. Just some thoughts, worth what you paid for them probably. Good luck!

I thought that was a pretty good response in this thread!

Ed Winkle


  1. Ed , what rate do you seed your radish at? Do you just broadcast it with fertilizer or use grass seeder on drill? And lastly could you spread liquid manure over the top or would it kill them? thanks-kevin

  2. Every way possible, most common is for me to sow with a drill. Right now is a good time for me to sow radish while walking my crop fields. 1-2 lbs per acre broadcast or mixed with other seed in a drill or planter, 5 lbs or more if I want a solid stand of radish.

  3. Cover crops here have been linked to noxious weeds. The few that have used them have abandoned them.