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Agronomy Update

Cover Crops: When, How, and What About Herbicide Carryover?

Published on Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Cover crops offer a variety of benefits from reducing erosion to adding nutrients to your soil. When I start a conversation with a farmer about cover crops, my first question is always, “what are your goals for the cover crop?” Cover crops are used for many different reasons so it’s important to know why you need them before you plant. A pre-determined goal will help you decide which cover crop or cover crop mixture you should plant on your farm.

Beck’s Kentucky Practical Farm Research (PFR)® has been conducting research trials to determine what the yield benefits of utilizing a cover crops can be. The results have been very promising thus far. Although we didn’t see a positive return on investment (ROI) in 2015, which was the first year of our Cover Crop Study, we did see positive yield increases across all three hybrids tested at three different planting dates. This leads me to believe that in future years, as our organic matter and overall soil health improve, we could begin to see a more substantial ROI through the utilization of cover crops.

Beck’s Kentucky PFR also conducted a Cover Crop Establishment Study, which is summarized in the table below. In this study, we were trying to determine the best method for incorporating the cover crop and the best timing to do so. We found that both of our post-harvest planting methods showed a positive return, while the pre-harvest methods did not.

Beck’s 2015 PFR Study: Cover Crop Establishment Study

Another thing to consider when choosing your cover crop mix is the herbicides you put out during the cropping year. There are several commonly used herbicides that could potentially harm the stand establishment of your mix. Dr. Kevin Bradley from the University of Missouri published some excellent reference charts that can help you quickly determine if you are at risk. Those charts can be found here: Herbicide Carryover on Cover Crops. I’ve included a teaser of the one of Dr. Bradley’s charts below, but if you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to contact myself or your local Beck’s representative to find out more.

Influence of Soybean Herbicide Treatments on Fall Cover Crop Stand.



Happy Harvest!



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