Planning ahead for cover crops

Be ready early to get your cover crop in quickly and extend your growing season

Cover crops can benefit your farming operation if you have time to plan ahead. There are several possible cover crops including tillage radish, crimson clover, annual ryegrass, hybrid brassica, hairy vetch, fababean, pea, barley, oats, buckwheat and more.

We sell cover crop seed to our customers for different reasons. Some intend to use the cover crop to graze with livestock and others use it for the soil health benefits.

Blending seed for customers at Stamp Seeds at Enchant, Alberta.

Blending seed for customers at Stamp Seeds at Enchant, Alberta.
photo: Greg Stamp

If you think cover crops could benefit your farm, make a plan to put them in place.

Our western Canadian season is short, so here are six ideas to give you a longer cover crop growth period.

1. Seed early: Seed your cover crop after winter wheat or fall rye so that the harvest on that field is early. Or, silage a crop on that field so you can seed the cover crop early.

2. Get your seed ready: Plan ahead, and talk to your seed supplier mid-winter. This way, all of the parts of your blend can be ordered and in place for you. Make sure you have the seed on-site before you’re ready to seed. In fact, you can even have that seed in the drill and calibrated before the last crop comes off.

3. Get it in the ground: Use a disk drill to inter row seed after herbicide application.

4. Seed in the spring: Seed the cover crop as a grazing crop in the spring

Before you seed a cover crop, take time to plan your herbicides and use ones that will not leave a residual that could impact broadleaf or cereal plants. The season following your cover crop, it may be best to seed a Roundup Ready crop to ensure a good kill of the cover crop and any volunteers that may grow.

The cover crop in this field is a mix of tillage radish, barley, crimson clover, hairy vetch, RootMax annual ryegrass and hybrid grazing brassica.

The cover crop in this field is a mix of tillage radish, barley, crimson clover, hairy vetch, RootMax annual ryegrass and hybrid grazing brassica.
photo: Greg Stamp

The cover crop in this field is a mix of tillage radish, barley, crimson clover, hairy vetch, RootMax annual ryegrass and hybrid grazing brassica.

The cover crop in this field is a mix of tillage radish, barley, crimson clover, hairy vetch, RootMax annual ryegrass and hybrid grazing brassica.
photo: Greg Stamp

Let’s make use of those fields that do not have crops on them for a few months of the year and also try to benefit soil health at the same time.

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