Finding the right mix and method for incorporating cover crops into a strip-till system is a work in progress for many farmers. Some have figured out a successful blend, while others have abandoned cover crops entirely in search of other alternatives to preserve nutrients and soil moisture.
Count Tekonsha, Mich., strip-tiller Ryan Groholske among those who understand the value cover crops can provide, but have struggled with the management side. He’s experimented with planting annual ryegrass in fall, ahead of strip-tilled corn in spring, on his 1,800-acre operation.
“I quit because I had too much of a problem getting it killed ahead of planting,” he says. “I know there’s different options, but in the south-central part of the state, it’s just a slow death if it’s cool.”
In mid-April, I had the opportunity to ride along in the tractor cab with Groholske while he was strip-tilling, and in certain areas of the field, he pointed out sporadic patches of surviving annual ryegrass. Though somewhat discouraged by what he’s seen in the field, Groholske is still optimistic that he can successfully incorporate cover crops into his strip-till system.
One option he plans to explore is possibly seeding oats as a cover with his 16-row SoilWarrior strip-till rig in fall. “I’ll want to try it with something that will die during the winter, and if I realize it’s a mess in spring, I can just strip-till in between the rows, but still utilize the root growth,” Groholske says. “If we can aerially apply cover crops, I’m pretty sure they would grow in this situation if we can control the seeding depth.”
Groholske says he may also experiment with fertilizer application with the cover, utilizing the two tanks on his strip-till unit. He may apply potassium or phosphorus with the cover, but plans to further research this option because he doesn’t want to burn the seed.
“I want to see if it can be done and I’m willing to give it a try,” he says. “It’s another way to plant cover crops and certainly more intense strip-till.”
What cover crop management techniques have worked in your strip-till operation? Share your story with me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.