By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services.
As fall harvest progresses, farmers are looking ahead to next year’s crop. Farmers utilizing no-till and/or cover crops may need to make different management decisions than conventional tillage farmers. Consider the following tips for managing cover crops and making fertilizer adjustments.
Legumes and clover cover crops are usually planted before corn because they make nitrogen (N). Legumes and clovers maximize N production (85-90%) at blooming, so terminate these cover crops before they set seed and the N is ties up. Most organic N is in the leaves and becomes available to the next crop 2-5 weeks after they decompose.
Most no-till farmers add 40-60# N in a corn starter to stimulate early corn growth, when soil microbial communities are lower and recovering after a cold winter. Microbial populations increase exponentially with moisture and warmer soils in late spring and early summer, recycling soil nutrients to the next crop.