Planting an October cover crop

Planting an October cover crop
Oct 14, 2021

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Cereal rye is likely a farmer’s best option at this point, an agronomy professor said

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Farmers looking to plant cover crops this month may only have one worthwhile option.

Cereal rye is likely a producer’s best choice for seeding a cover crop this late into the fall, said Eileen Kladivko, an agronomy professor at Purdue University.

“It’s more winter hardy and can grow under cooler conditions in the fall compared to some other cover crops,” she told “Every cover crop has a certain amount of heat units it needs to grow adequately, and cereal rye doesn’t require as much as some of the others.”

Depending on the farm’s geography, a producer could seed cereal rye into November.

The crop’s benefits include scavenging nitrogen left in the soil and suppressing weeds.

“It can be grazed or removed, but generally when people are planting cereal rye as a cover crop, they’re not doing so to harvest it,” Kladivko said.

Cover crop management options are limited during the fall.

But it’s important farmers get them seeded as soon as possible, Kladivko said.

“At this point, the main thing is getting it planted where you can get some growth in the fall so it overwinters,” she said. “There’s lots of cover crop management in the spring.”

One area of spring cover crop management is how and when to terminate the crop.

The crop can be terminated with herbicides, a roller-crimper or by other means.

“We encourage people to think about how they’re going to terminate the crop before they ever plant it,” Kladivko said. “Having a plan A, B and C will help farmers pivot if they need to.”

Conversations around cover crops have evolved over recent years.

Two main factors have contributed to this, Kladivko said.

“Discussions about soil health and water quality have really ratcheted up the interest in cover crops over the last five or 10 years,” she said. “And the fact more farmers who are doing it gives other farmers confidence to plant them as well.”

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