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Reducing Risk to Corn Planted into Cereal Rye Cover Crop

Categories: PLANTING, CORN

Cereal rye is a popular cover crop and has become increasingly used by farmers every year for its ability to boost soil organic matter, reduce runoff, and control weeds. Of particular concern for using cereal rye as a cover crop for corn, however, is its potential allelopathic effect, which can inhibit corn development.

Allelopathy is a competitive mechanism that involves a plant releasing a phytotoxic chemical to inhibit the growth of another plant. This is generally more detrimental to small seeded plants that germinate on or near the surface. Larger seed plants, such as corn, are planted at a deeper depth, allowing the crop to germinate and grow with less of a possibility of interference. Another concern associated with cereal rye is the biomass that remains after it is killed, as the leachates from the plant that move down the soil could be absorbed by germinating seeds. These problems are both manageable through proper timing of cover crop termination and corn planting dates, which can be best done by ensuring the herbicide application for the cover crop is done at least 14 days before the anticipated spring planting date, ensuring that the biomass is more fully decayed, therefore minimizing the risk of harmful leachates entering the seed’s germination zone.   
Planting corn before terminating a cereal rye cover crop is also an option however, so long as the crop is sprayed post-germination of the planted corn, allowing the plant time to establish and withstand any harmful effects of any potential allelopathic leachates. 

Cereal rye can also serve as a host to insect pests, so scout for cutworms and armyworms, and manage as needed. Contact your Golden Harvest Seed Advisor with questions or for additional agronomic insights.

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