Cover crop seeding into standing crops or after harvest?

by Eileen Kladivko, Department of Agronomy, Purdue University College of Agriculture:

Cover crops have gained in popularity in the Corn Belt over the last few years, and now is the time of year they are being seeded.

Some producers have already flown on cover crop seed into their standing corn or soybean crops, while others are waiting to drill or seed the cover crops after harvest. With the delayed crop maturity and later harvest in some areas of the Corn Belt this year, it could be a good year to try seeding by air or with ground-based high clearance equipment, especially if seed is already purchased for species needing several months of moderate temperatures to grow.

Oats and radish flown into standing soybeans in September.

Oats and radish flown into standing soybeans in September.

Brassicas, legumes, and oats, for example, should be seeded no later than the third week in September for much of the Corn Belt, and flying them on now could still give some benefit to the soil. Cereal rye is the most hardy of the cover crops grown in the region and can be successfully seeded after harvest throughout the region, and would be a good choice after corn harvest this year, particularly if next year’s crop will be soybeans.

Producers should consult the Cover Crop Selector Tool from the Midwest Cover Crops Council for recommended seeding dates for their state and county, as well as seeding rates, depths, and other tips. It is important for producers to do their homework on fitting cover crops into their overall systems, however, including choice of cover crop based on next year’s cash crop and the method and timing of termination in the spring.