Discovering correct seeding rate for rye cover crops

A field that has been no-tilled for eight years was the location of Peninsula Pride Farms’ May 24 Conservation Conversation. Duane Ducat and his son Derek of Deer Run Dairy shared how they continue to reduce tillage on almost all their acres. The topic of the night was planting green into rye cover.

The field on display, located near Kewaunee, was planted with 25-30 pounds of winter rye last fall. Through the Door-Kewaunee Demonstration Farm Network, Ducats have learned they can cut back on the seed needed for cover. They were planting too much before. Barry Bubolz from the Natural Resource Conservation Service shared how they still achieve all the benefits with less seed.

“When we measure these fields, we have over a ton of dry matter above ground,” Bubolz said. “It still allows us to plant effectively into it. We are getting sunlight down to the ground but still getting it protected while building biology and the biomass in these soils.”

Derek shared that he planted corn on May 12 and terminated the rye a week after planting. He put down 7.5 gallons of Nitrogen with the corn. Duane said that he knows it is good for the soil to leave the residue of rye turn into a biomass, but it is still hard not to see the clean growing lines of corn fields like you see with conventional farming. However, he did say his corn is likely 2-2.25” deeper with the healthier soil his fields have.

Derek also talked about another practice they are starting to try ─ interseeding cover crops with corn. He will be doing this with an air seeder drill. He hopes with this practice the field will have an established crop to take manure sooner. The farm is also trying a new cover crop mix that includes buckwheat, radish, crimson clover, red clover and annual rye clover grass.

Before the group of 10 attendees dispersed, a member shared he heard someone describe a field without cover crops as “naked, hungry and running a fever”. The group could all relate to this as the farmers know planting a cover crop protects, feeds and keeps the soil at good temperatures year-round.

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