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Time is running out to act on your cover crops

Read Time: 5 minutes

By Anna Teeter August 24, 2023

By the time you are reading this, it’ll be “go time” for cover crops. Our agronomy team has compiled some resources and suggestions to share with you as we look towards harvest. We also want to address  some specific concerns below that we’ve heard from producers over the last few months:

Availability of cereal rye seed

This has been a huge concern that we’ve heard from a lot of you but the good news is that there are some great alternative winter grains that can be used if cost or accessibility become a problem when it comes to cereal rye seed.

Winter wheat, for example, might be more accessible and affordable. Winter wheat is also extremely cold-hardy but you may not see as much biomass out of wheat due to genetics so that is something to be aware of. Winter barley and triticale are both great substitutes for cereal rye seed as well.

Note: It may be tempting to use a neighbor’s bin run cereal rye but it is important to note that there is no way to certify how clean that seed is and there is potential to bring in a large population of weed seeds. There is also no way to know the germination rate and seeding rates may have to be adjusted.  

Here are some resources that explore all the pros and cons of cover crop species:

Dry weather affecting cover crop seeding conditions

Dry weather has become an increasing concern, especially for those who typically broadcast their cover crop seed. There are, however, a few alternative options you can consider in dry conditions:

  • Drill your cover crop seed.
    • This will allow you to get the best seed-to-soil contact without making a tillage pass.
  • Incorporate your cover crop seed with a vertical tillage tool (or something similar)
    • Note: You will have to record that tillage change in your Cargill RegenConnect account during data collection which may affect payment. Refer to the chart below.)
  • Broadcast your cover crop seed and hope for moisture over the winter season.
    • A cover crop like cereal rye will still germinate and grow in the spring.

cover crop table - in page

Late cover crop seeding

If harvest gets late, your only option available for cover crop seed may be cereal rye. There are not many other cover crops that will still germinate when the temperature is low.

  • You may need to increase your seeding rate to adjust for less germination.
  • Remember that if you are working with a CSP contract, you will need to follow their guidelines for application timing, species, and rate.
  • If you are unsure of what to do, you can always reach out to your agronomist to build a new game plan.

If you're looking for more information or resources on cover crops, you can check out some of our previous articles below:

Know how to select the right cover crop species for you

Looking to get more growth out of your cover crop? Try interseeding

Cover crops: How you can use covers as a weed management tool

Best practices for terminating your cover crops this spring

You can also watch our Soil Health video series with American Farmland Trust

If you're looking for additional support in your cover crop plan, please reach out to your Cargill RegenConnect Agronomist:

Jared Jacobs

Anna Teeter

Janelle Leach

Damon Oien

Anna Teeter Headshot Bio Image

Anna Teeter

Anna Teeter is a Conservation Agronomist with the Cargill RegenConnect™ program. Her goal is to help farmers successfully implement soil health practices while continuing to advocate for agriculture. Anna brings extensive hands-on experience having worked with the University of Wisconsin-Madison extension services, private ag consulting services, and most recently the Soil Health Partnership, which led her to Cargill. She has a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy and Life Sciences Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Masters of Science in Soil Science.