When July hits and we’re close to wheat harvest, we often get asked, “When is a good time to try a cover crop mix?” We would suggest preparing now and planting a mixture after wheat harvest. Wheat fields provide the perfect opportunity to try out a mixture of cover crops with the extended period for growth before winter.
Key Considerations for Cover Crops
- What cash crop is planned for that field next year?
- Do you need help with soil compaction issues?
- Do you need improved water infiltration?
- Do you need improvements in nutrient scavenging or erosion issues?
Along with incorporating cover crops into your field plan, this is also a good time for manure application. We recommend applying whatever source of manure you have and till that in with a vertical tillage tool if needed. Once the manure application is done, we can get a cover crop planted. A good starting point for your cover crop is having a 50% mix of grasses and 50% mix of Legumes and Brassicas. Mixing some winter kill grasses, like oats, with overwintering grasses, like barley or rye, will give you great root structure throughout the summer, fall and winter months. Grass can help with erosion areas and increase water infiltration.
Looking Ahead to the 2024 Planting Season
If you are planning on soybeans next season, having only a couple of legumes in the mix would be best. If you’re planning on planting corn, a good mix of legumes and either Buckwheat, Sunflower or Sunn Hemp can bring in a lot of beneficial pollinators to the area. The most critical step in the process is to talk with someone that has the knowledge and expertise with cover crops to help you figure out a good mixture that will meet all the needs for your farming operation.