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Ontario Cover Crop Recipe – Post Corn Silage, Going to Soybean: Introduce a Fall Rye Cover Crop

The following recipe provides an introductory approach to integrating a cover crop after corn silage harvest and before planting soybean as the next crop.

Planning—Read about cover crops. Go to field days. Start small. Be timely. Prioritize management based on purpose and objectives.
Residual corn herbicides—Read the product label to identify any recropping restrictions for planting fall rye (Secale cereale L.) after silage corn harvest. Rye should not be grazed or harvested for forage unless product labels explicitly permit the use of an underseeded, treated crop as feed or the recropping restrictions are followed. (See Table 4-4, Herbicide Crop Rotation and Soil pH Restrictions—Field Crops, in Publication 75A, Guide to Weed Control: Field Crops in Resources.)
Seed purchase—Order rye seed early, usually by early summer. Use good quality seed from a reputable seed dealer. Bin-run seed doesn’t have guaranteed germination and may come with unwanted weed seeds. Consider doing a germination test before planting and adjust seeding rates accordingly.
Fall Work

Fall manure—It generally works best to plant cover crops following manure application via injection or surface application and incorporation. Nevertheless, so long as soil conditions are fit, manure can be applied by dragline or tanker once rye has passed the 2-3 leaf stage. This is not likely to damage the rye since the growing point remains below the ground in the fall.
Tillage or no-tillage—Generally, it is easier to integrate cover crops into no-tillage or strip-tillage systems. If tillage is necessary to incorporate manure or smooth the seedbed after corn silage harvest, it should take place prior to rye seeding.
Timing of planting—Plant rye as soon as possible after silage corn harvest and at least two weeks before the average hard frost date (-2°C). If planting later than mid-October, double the seeding rate.
Seeding rate—Seed at a rate of 40–90 lbs/acre (assuming a germination rate of 85% or greater). Seeding rates should be increased by 50% if broadcasting and incorporating or be doubled if just broadcasting. If the rye will be grazed or harvested as a silage crop in the spring, use a rate of 100–170 lbs/acre.
Planting method—Drill to a depth of 1–1.5 inches or broadcast with shallow incorporation to less than 1.5 inches. Aerial or other broadcast seeding is an option for earlier establishment into standing corn with some risk of poor or inconsistent establishment. Overly wet or dry conditions after aerial seeding or presence of slugs will limit success.
Other fall operations—Use a current soil test (no older than four years) to determine lime or nutrient requirements for next year’s crop. If needed, thoroughly incorporate before seeding the rye cover crop.

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