This publication is intended to provide a starting point for farmers who are new to growing cover crops. With experience, farmers may fine-tune the use of cover crops for their systems.
The following recipe provides an introductory approach to integrating a cover crop into a soybean-corn rotation. Often the easiest place to begin is to plant a cover crop ahead of a soybean cash crop following corn, so consider starting with the companion recipe titled Post Corn, Going to Soybean (publication MCCC-100/AY-356-W; see Resources).
Planning and Preparation
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- Planning—Educate yourself. Start small. Be timely. Prioritize management based on your purpose and objectives.
- Soybean variety and planting—If possible, plant the preceding soybean crop early and use an early maturity soybean cultivar. One strategy is to use your earliest- maturity-group soybeans on the fields where you plan to seed cover crops and plant those beans first.
- Residual soybean herbicides—Because oats are very tolerant of most soybean residual herbicides, few restrictions apply unless grazing is being considered. Radish is more sensitive and will likely be harmed if ALS-type (group 2) or PPO-type (group 14) herbicides are used in the soybean cropping season. (See Resources.)
- Seed purchase—Order cover crop seed early. Named oat varieties grow well but are more expensive than VNS (variety not stated) seed. Start with VNS seed with a good germination rate purchased from a reputable seed dealer. Note that this means the seed has been cleaned, tested for germination, and has a seed tag even though it is VNS. Although usually not less expensive than oat seed, spring barley can be used instead. For cover crop radishes (daikon type), be sure to purchase a single variety from a reputable seed dealer since mixed varieties may bolt or go to seed rather than producing the desired large amounts of biomass and roots.