This field is home to eight cover crops: annual rye, radishes, crimson clover, cahaba vetch, triticale, turnips, blue lupine and volunteer wheat.

Cover crop recipes for new users

By Sarah Noggle, Ohio State University Extension

Wondering how to do cover crops? OSU Extension, in collaboration with the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC), has produced cover crop “recipes” for two scenarios: Post corn, going to soybean and Post soybean, going to corn.

The recipes are intended to provide step-by-step guidance to some of the lowest-risk starting points for cover crops. They don’t cover the whole spectrum of possibilities, but they can help beginners get most pieces in place to incorporate cover crops into a farm operation. The two recipes were developed to address Ohio’s most common crop cropping system, the corn/soybean rotation.

The “Post corn, going to soybean” recipe suggests cereal rye, which provides an overwintering ground cover. Soybeans often thrive when planted into standing dead or living cereal rye residue. The “Post soybean, going to corn” recipe suggests an oats/radish mix, which will winterkill and leave a smaller amount of residue in the corn seedbed the following year.

In addition to protecting soil from erosion and building soil organic matter, cover crops can take up excess nitrate left after a cash crop, reducing nitrogen loads in surface or groundwater.

Talking with Ohio State University Extension, NRCS, or Soil and Water Conservation District employees about what’s working locally can also help set new cover crop users up for success.

The recipes can be found on the MCCC website, which also includes detailed information about many common cover crop species and links to other resources. Ohio is one of 13 states and provinces represented on the MCCC, a collaborative group with the goal of supporting broad adoption of cover crops across the Midwest. Funding for the recipe project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.

Extension Educator Sarah Noggle led the recipe development along with Jim Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services. Additional reviewers and contributors on the project include Jason Hartschuh, Ohio State University Extension; Eileen Kladivko, Purdue University; Anna Morrow, Midwest Cover Crops Council; Eric Richer, Ohio State University Extension; and Alan Sundermeier, Ohio State University Extension.

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