Cover crops generally looking good in Ontario

OMARA field crop team
August 04, 2017
By OMARA field crop team
The underseeded red clover in Ontario is looking pretty good where winter wheat has been harvested. As is often the case, some fields have variable stands and others have poor or non-existent stands. If the red clover stand is poor and it is insured nothing can be done until it is released by Agricorp. If it is not insured then now is a good time to improve it. If there are some thin spots in it, those areas can be patched with another legume. Crimson clover is a good option and red clover can also be seeded at this time. Other clovers or peas are good options as well. If all that is desired is inexpensive quick cover then oats are a good option. If very little red clover exists there a wide range of options to choose from.

If no cover crop was planned after winter wheat it is not too late to consider planting one. Cover crops can help improve soil structure, protect the soil from erosion, feed soil life, suppress weeds, cycle nutrients, and provide feed for livestock and much more. Research at University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus has shown that planting a cover crop provides a benefit, even if the growth is limited. So consider the options and find a way to reap the benefits of cover crops.

Select a cover crop to meet the goals for the field. Also consider how it will fit into your cropping and tillage system and how much time there will be for the cover crop to grow. Some options that will achieve good ground cover at a reasonable cost are: oats or barley, oats and radish, and oats and peas. Combinations of a grass or cereal, legume and brassica also work well and can provide a diversity of growth and root types.

Before planting a cover crop it is important to think about what management it may require. Many cover crops are killed by frost and don’t require a herbicide treatment. Others will survive the winter and will need to be killed in the fall or spring. Some will go to seed, so they will need to be mowed or managed before then. Tillage, using a roller crimper or grazing are other methods that can be used to manage or terminate the cover crop.

Plant the cover crop as soon as possible to achieve the most growth. Drilling the cover crop in is the most effective but other methods can work. If planting is delayed until after Labour Day it is best to plant a winter cereal as a frost will likely kill off other cover crops before they can achieve much growth.

Some areas have had too much rain and parts of fields or whole fields have no crop in them. For some options for those fields visit the Field Crop News site.

New this year, Agricorp is offering production insurance for cover crops. The coverage is called New Forage Seeding and is available for a wide range of cover crops. The acreage to be covered must be reported by September 1st. Visit the Agricorp website for more information.

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