Interseeding: timing cover crop planting
Pine Hollow Farm, a dairy farm in Cortland NY, is owned and operated by the Evanick family: Tracy, John Jr., and Steve. They grow 500+ acres of corn (harvested for grain and silage), soybeans, and alfalfa.
In 2013, Steve purchased a Valmar Airflo seeder for seeding hay fields and cover crops. In the past, they seeded cover crops primarily into areas with pronounced slope or fields harvested for silage. Steve said that the Airflo is expensive but quickly plants cover crops: “it can put down 20 acres of rye in a half hour”. Although the Airflo is efficient, it requires more seed (using 120 lbs/acre of seed) than other machines Steve has used previously for cover cropping.
In 2013, Steve became a host farm in our cover crop InterSeeder project. Cover crops were interseeded on .248 acres on June 24, 2013 at corn growth stage V5. Cover crops seeded were: ryegrass (‘KB Royal’ at 20 lb/ac), a legume mixture (hairy vetch, red clover, and crimson clover at 45 lb/ac), and a grass legume mixture (ryegrass, hairy vetch, red clover, and crimson clover at 32.5 lb/ac). The corn silage was harvested on September 24, 2013. Cover crops were sampled October 30, 2013 and yielded between 1300-1900 lb/a dry matter biomass.
Steve sees potential benefits of using the interseeded clover clover crop as a silage crop the following season. If the clover is 6-8 inches tall by the spring, Steve says that he would be able to mow the crop and use it as silage. If Steve can ensure the clover will do well over winter, he would prefer to mow the field rather than plowing under the clover.
A concern Steve has is interseeding the cover crop at the ideal growth stage of the corn: “I was curious if it [clover] was going to germinate, because once corn shades, the cover crop doesn’t get light. I think the most critical thing is that you put it [clover] on at the right time.” Interseeding at the ideal time during the cash crop’s growth-cycle can be a challenge for a busy grower. “That would be the biggest downfall for me, because we are so busy with silage, trying to come out here and do the interseeding would be a trade-off,” Steve said.
When asked if Steve sees a place for the InterSeeder on Pine Hollow Farm he said, “If they made a bigger one. My corn planter is 12 rows; I would have to have an InterSeeder that was also 12 rows.” But for now the InterSeeder has the possibility for dual benefits on Pine Hollow Farm, establishing early cover crops, and producing silage.