Top Crop Manager

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August 27, 2019
By Stefanie Croley


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For many producers, unseeded acres represent the worst possible outcome of bad weather.

But when conditions are right, business-minded producers can make the most of these acres by planting cover crops, and take the opportunity to mow/bale or mow/chop to feed those crops out.

“Cover crops offer several agronomic benefits: erosion protection, nitrogen trapping, nutrient recycling, organic matter intake, improved soil structure and cycle disruption of crop pests,” says Patrice Dery, eastern Canadian territory sales manager for CLAAS.

It isn’t always possible or cost-effective to plant cover crops in Eastern Canada due to the short growing season, Dery cautions – for example, harvest needs to occur around August 20 to maximize cover crop profitability. Price and availability of seed is another consideration.

But under the right circumstances, cover crops can be a great option.

“The most common practice is to opt for cruciferous plants,” says Dery. “A mustard, a radish – or, better yet, a mixture of both – are great options.”

Another reason cruciferous plants can work well as cover crops, Dery adds, is that they are more cold tolerant than cereals at the end of the growing season. Under cool conditions, mustard and radish can continue growing slowly.

Other options include vetch or clover, says Dery. “It all depends on the nitrogen scale of the soil.”

Erin Atkins, a marketing specialist for CLAAS of America, says there are several types of forage harvesting and hay equipment that can help growers manage cover crops. When researching forage and hay harvesting equipment, she and Dery suggest looking for systems that are customizable and scalable to a producer’s needs. Check for good chopping quality and clean, uniform cutting to result in great silage quality.

For Bert Roos, a Brownsville, Ont., custom farm operator, these factors are key.

“Good processing is very important in our business,” he says.