Flying on cover crops.

Cover crop challenges in northwest Ohio

By Matt Reese

It has been a wet harvest season in northwest Ohio. 

Bob Short farms in Williams County in the northwest corner of the state where, in some fields, the 2021 harvest is turning into 2022.

“The growing season this year was challenging at best. It seems like we were wet in the spring, then we were dry and now we have been wet all fall,” Short said. “Harvest has been extremely challenging. There are a lot of crops still in the field. The guys with wheat planting intentions, a lot of that didn’t happen because it was just too wet after the beans were off.”

The conditions also made it very challenging to get cover crops established. Jeff Duling farms in Putnam County. While his harvest is finished, it was too late for many fields to be planted to cover crops. The fields were still wet by mid-December. 

“With the rain events we have been having in northwest Ohio I still have cereal rye sitting in our air seeder yet and hope to get it planted. I have never planted cereal rye this late before. In the middle of September we had a 5-inch rain. In no-till you don’t want to go out and mess your fields up. We have the soil structure out there so we waited and waited to get soybeans off and get wheat planted. It just wasn’t fit. We kept getting little rains. They were nagging. I call them mosquito rains because they just keep bothering you,” Duling said. “We got some wheat in, but we don’t have many good wheat fields in our area. We tried planting some rye and we had it rot. The earlier I can get it planted the better, but this year it was a struggle. I tried more inter-seeding at V4 this year. It looks tremendous and I’m sold now. I have done it for a few years. It is another way to get cover crop out there. I had some flown on. I don’t fly my corn and beans on so why would I fly my cover crop on? But this year it was a way to get it out there. High-boys are another option too.”

Cover crop acres in the Western Lake Erie Basin have gotten a big boost from the H2Ohio Program, but the weather made it challenging to get them planted before the Oct. 15 deadline for the program last fall.

“I pushed to get an extension on H2Ohio’s Oct. 15 deadline for planting cover crops and we got it to Nov. 1, but even that didn’t help. We took a hit on cover crop planting this year,” Duling said. “In the end we know Mother Nature is in charge.”

For others in a similar situation it is important to work with the local Soil and Water Conservation District and the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Both are aware of the cover crop planting challenges this fall and willing to work with farmers who made a best effort to get cover crops planted amid the weather challenges in the fall of 2021. H2Ohio funds will be issued accordingly after field inspections in 2022.

“But don’t go out and work the fields if you didn’t get a cover crop in,” Duling said. “I believe in cover crops and what they do for me. For me cover crops are like a cash crop. It is just as good a corn and soybeans because I know what it is going to do for my soil over the next several years. I hate to miss a year on cover crops because I know what they do for my soils.” 

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