Creativity is a cornerstone of imagination, and this innovative nature applies to strip-tillers who experiment with cover crops. Still a relatively new practice, the incorporation of different cover crop varieties into strip-till is an emerging trend and one that often prompts as many questions as answers from farmers.
While cover crops aren’t a silver-bullet solution to farming challenges, NRCS soil scientist Ray Archuleta offered some considerations during his 3-hour, in-field workshop after the 2016 National Strip-Tillage Conference.
With the goal of creating more biological nutrients, Archuleta encouraged experimentation with different cover-crop mixes and seeding rates to help promote soil regeneration:
Don’t plant more than than 35 pounds per acre of cereal rye because then it’s too thick, Archuleta says. The thickness can make it difficult to plant into.
Consider 3 pounds per acre of hairy vetch. “If I’m going to roll it, I’ll go as high as 8 pounds because I can roll it down like a carpet,” Archuleta says.
Then add 5-8 pounds per acre of crimson clover. Experiment with various amount of clovers to see what’s going to kick in, Archuleta says.
He then suggests adding 1 pound per acre of radishes to the mix and then 10-20 pounds of Austrian winter peas.
“I like alfalfa as well,” he says. “If you can control it and you can do it well, it’s got a nice deep tap root.”
Also consider 10-20 pounds of winter oats. “It is heavily mycorrhizal,” Archuleta says. “It feeds microorganisms.”
He says farmers can use an oil cement mixer to blend the varieties, and drill them about a half-inch deep.
“Seed is too expensive, and I want to see success out there,” Archuleta says. “You’ve got to realize your covers are just as critical as your crop. If you do not think that way and you’re going to play with it, don’t do it.”
Hear more from Ray Archuleta in the most recent Strip-Till Farmer podcast.
What successful cover crop mixes have you incorporated in your strip-till system? Share your story with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org