Cover crops are becoming an increasingly attractive addition for many strip-tillers, primarily as a way to carry over nitrogen and increase water infiltration.
But as more and more species of weeds become herbicide resistant, some strip-tillers are exploring covers as an alternative, eco-friendly method.
En route to the 2015 Farm Progress Show earlier this month, we visited with Streator, Ill., strip-tillers Dave and Eric Sass, who are exploring the possibility of using covers to combat weed “hot spots” on their 1,700-acre corn-and-soybean operation.
For the last 2 years, they’ve used Hagie’s Cover Crop Interseeder to seed a variety of cover-crop mixes into their strip-tilled corn going into soybeans the following year to help loosen up their tighter timber soils.
The Sasses have been encouraged by the results. And a recent revelation from a relative on the benefits of seeding cereal rye ahead of soybeans, to combat waterhemp, has them planning to test the method on their own farm.
“My cousin seeded the cover, then planted soybeans into it and came back after the soybeans sprouted and sprayed the cereal rye with Roundup,” Eric explains. “The soybeans were fine, but the cereal rye created a mat and smothered out the waterhemp. It was gone.”
Eric acknowledges that weed control was likely an unintended benefit for his cousin, but one that could provide biological ammunition for combating resistant weed species in the future. He says they have a wet spot on a 100-acre soybean field where waterhemp is problematic.
“We actually went out there and pulled the weeds by hand to try and help control it,” Eric says. “When the field rotates back into soybeans in 2 years, we’re planning to seed cereal rye and plant into it to see if it will choke out the water hemp.”
The Sasses are optimistic that if the method works, it will only strengthen the incentive for strip-tillers to incorporate cover crops into their rotation. “If we’re successful, it would be an environmentally effective and practical option for weed control, which is our goal,” Eric says.
How are cover crops benefiting your strip-till operation? Share your story with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.