Can seeding cover crops at sidedress work?

In Corn and Soybean Digest

New equipment options and growers willing to experiment are opening the door to early season cover crop interseeding. Growers who try it are finding lower costs and in-season benefits.

“I interseeded 100 acres of corn at the end of June, and at the end of July we had 7 inches of rain – some of it heavy, over two days,” recalls Bruce Brunk, Rushmore, Minn. “I drove by a roadside field with a history of heavy runoff. The culvert from the field was dry. We had another inch the next day, and again, the culvert was dry, though there was standing water in other ditches in the area.”

Brunk jumped into early seeding of cover crops with both feet, investing in an InterSeeder. Developed by Pennsylvania State University, the InterSeeder is a high clearance drill with easily removed row units, allowing it to be used as a no-till drill for wheat and soybeans at seven and a half inch spacings or for a wide variety of other row spacings.

Although the InterSeeder didn’t arrive until late May, Brunk used it to solid-seed his remaining soybeans. After corn harvest he would use it to seed wheat, however, it was interseeding that he purchased it for, and interseeding he did. With the liquid fertilizer tank option in place, he sidedressed with 32% UAN while interseeding three rows of annual rye, turnips, clover and rapeseed between rows of corn. That was the end of June. In mid-July he interseeded soybeans with three rows of annual rye, radish and crimson clover.

No yield loss

The early-seeded cover crop emerged, established a root system and went dormant as the canopy closed. Cover crop interseeded for a friend in late July did poorly due to lack of light. As the corn and beans neared harvest, Brunk’s cover crop broke dormancy with no impact on yield.

Two fields of interseeded soybeans averaged 57 and 60 bushels per acre. Two corn hybrids planted side by side and interseeded with cover crop averaged 217 and 219 bushels per acre. Brunk notes that the hybrid with a more upright leaf structure left behind a more robust cover crop.

“Leaf characteristics appear to be important,” suggests Brunk. “You can do everything else the same, but light matters.”

Read the rest of the story in Corn and Soybean Digest.

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