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Transitioning Cover Crops to Corn and Soybean Planting


Cover crops are increasing in popularity and adding them into a rotation can offer many benefits when used correctly. Cover crops can help build soil organic matter and improve soil structure, while also reducing erosion and suppressing weeds. Many cover crops are terminated as a result of winterkill, but for the cover crops that remain alive, consider what benefits you hope to gain from having them before transitioning into this year’s row crop.

What to do with cover crops in the spring

If the cover crops were planted to assist in moisture uptake and drying out the spring soil, it is recommended to plant directly into the cover crop while it is still green. Keep in mind that if cover crops enter bolting or jointing stages, or begin producing reproductive structures, they will be harder to control with herbicides.

If an herbicide is going to be used for cover crop termination, consider what will be planted next. For example, soybeans have planting restrictions of 14 to 28 days after an application of 2,4-D, especially if applied at higher rates. If a contact herbicide is going to be used, a higher gallon-per-acre spray volume is recommended to promote coverage on dense canopies. Translocated herbicides, such as glyphosate, will move to plant growing points, so higher coverage is less of a concern. Herbicide applications made to actively growing cover crops on sunny days with temperatures above 60°F in the daytime and 40°F at night are most effective.

Another important aspect of cover crop termination is tillage. Tillage can be a viable option for certain species, but multiple passes may be needed to negate the benefits provided. Having a well thought out transition plan in place is key for terminating cover crops and growing healthier, higher yielding corn and soybeans.

Contact your Golden Harvest Seed Advisor with questions or for additional agronomic insights.

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