Fall 2012 marks beginning of the fifth year of the Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa Cover Crop Working Group partnership. Ten statewide farmer-partners host replicated, side-by-side field length strip trials comparing yield of corn or soybean planted with or without a preceding winter-hardy cereal rye cover crop. Some farmer-partners aerial-seed their rye cover into their standing crop prior to harvest while others use a grain drill to seed the rye after soybean or corn harvest. Results have generally been positive; soybean yields tend to be unchanged, or even improved, following winter cereal rye. Corn yields can be reduced following a cereal rye cover crop, if corn is planted too soon after terminating rye growth in the spring. Experts recommend delaying corn planting for 10-14 days after applying a glyphosate burndown herbicide to terminate rye growth.
Farmers and landowners are learning more about the short- and long-term benefits of adding cover crops on their farm. Cover crops have potential to reduce soil erosion, increase soil organic matter levels, improve soil structure, protect water quality by capturing and holding fertilizer nutrients, and restrict growth of winter annual weeds in no-till crop management systems.
To expand our network of local winter-hardy cereal rye cover crop education and outreach opportunities, Iowa Learning Farms is offering free cereal rye cover crop seed to local FFA chapters who already maintain student-managed test plots. We are asking FFA advisors and the students to include winter rye cover crops as part of their overall local plot management. We want to offer opportunities for the next generation of farmers, agriculture leaders, and decision-makers to learn about cover crops management.
FFA advisors interested in receiving four to six bushels of free winter-hardy cereal rye seed for cover crop use in fall 2012 should contact Iowa Learning Farms Field Coordinator Aaron Andrews at (515) 294-4922, or firstname.lastname@example.org.