Farm Calls: A Winter’s Tale of Two Fields

Last Friday night a leading Jersey vegetable grower asked, “What’s with all the recent media hype about cover crops? I’m getting ads, USDA NRCS promotions and trade magazine articles about something we already know all about.”

He’s not alone in holding this opinion – ag agents have come to similar conclusions. “We know about cover crops. Farmers know about cover crops. Cover crops have been researched, demonstrated, and their costs and benefits established for over a century. There’s nothing innovative for growers and nothing new to teach.”

The thing is, many growers haven’t adopted cover crops. For example, take the fields I came across while driving down to Friday’s meeting. Who can resist checking out other farmers’ fields while traveling, whether it’s your neighbor down the road or fields far from home? On this detour, there were hundreds of acres seeded with a cover crop mix of cereal rye and oilseed radish (AKA Tillage Radish). But, something caught my eye so I stopped to take a look.

Two fields on opposite sides of one road.

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Selecting Summer Cover Crops

It’s tempting to cash crop every season, but eventually – especially on Coastal Plain soils – you’ll run into problems with disease pressure impacting yields. In addition, farming on Coastal Plain soils with their low level of organic matter makes using recommended herbicide label rates tricky; low organic matter results in a narrow window between efficacy and phytotoxicity, negatively affecting yields.

Cover crops can help remedy these problems. Summer cover crops are an option few Northeast growers use because there is only so much time in-season to cash crop, but it’s an option worth serious consideration. Summer cover crops add versatility to your cropping rotation – another chance to address weed and disease pressure plus build organic matter; another chance to boost future yields.

Don’t miss Cover Crop Field Day
Date: December 11, 2014
Location: Now or Never Farm, 37 Welisewitz Road, Ringoes, NJ
Host: USDA NRCS and North Jersey RC&D
Contact: For Information and RSVP (by Dec. 8) call USDA NRCS 908-782-4614×3

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