Time to get in Cover Crop

To say it’s been a tough year for farmers, would be an understatement. The 2011 growing season has been marked by heavy rains, high winds, flooding, and extreme heat. Rob Shortell, former Rutgers grad student and now Assistant Professor at Cal Poly, got it right when he said,

farming is about the details… “it’s the weather, the timing, the attentiveness to details.”

And right now we’ve got a small window of opportunity to get in cover crops. There are only about 7 NJ fall seeding days for ideal establishment.

At RAREC, we had a perfect day on Thursday, September 22, and planted …

Rye cover crop holds the soil against winter wind and water erosion, traps remaining nutrients, and offers some weed allelopathy.  To assure a sufficiently dense stand for weed suppression in 2012, we drilled rye at over 2x the recommended seeding rate (and cost) for NJ conditions. Why?

During winter 2010-11, a flock of snow geese descended on our rye cover crop fields, and tore out half of our cover crop seedlings. As a preferred waterfowl wildlife food source in the dead of winter, snow geese destroy beneficial cover crop seedlings.

Later in 2011, for our organic no-till butternut squash demonstration, we used a roller crimper, instead of herbicides, to control weeds and leave a potential mulch mat barrier to reduce splash disseminated diseases. The snow geese thinned cover crop allowed weeds to germinate after rolling, and resulted in a complete weed control crop failure. We were forced to disk up and lose the field in early August to prevent the red root pigweed from going to seed and causing a larger future problem.  There are not many roller crimpers used in NJ. They have potential, but reliability problems and limitations for successful organic no-till weed management on Jersey soils and crops.

While farmers are great supporters of wildlife, and offer waterfowl wildlife habitat, e.g., Delta British Columbia waterfowl cover crops program, wildlife damage cover crops, causing economic losses.

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