AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Planting 2022 is in full swing. Corn is in the ground, and cotton farmers are ready to get in the field to sow this fall’s crop. Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University researchers know that good planning starts early—especially with transportation disruptions and the uncertainty of seed availability in a timely manner.
Alabama Extension Soil Scientist Audrey Gamble planted cover crop demonstrations on five farms throughout Alabama. Her goal was to determine the highest biomass producer and identify varieties that would work in different growing situations.
Gamble, who is also an associate professor in the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s crop, soil and environmental science department, said they planted each demo during the last two weeks of October. The farms were in Autauga, Geneva, Henry, Lawrence and Lee counties.
Cover Crop Demos
“Most of our cover crop trials are planted on research stations,” Gamble said. “But I wanted to plant these on-farm demos so farmers could gauge what cover crops might work on their own farm.”
Researchers planted all of the demonstrations with a no-till drill. Producers and the team did not fertilize cover crops as part of the experiment. However, there was a chicken litter application at the Geneva County location in early spring. Gamble said her team learned valuable information to pass along to producers through the cover crop demonstrations.
- Early maturing varieties shine in a short growing window. Examples of early maturing varieties include FL401 rye, Legend oat and AU Sunrise crimson clover.
- Low seeding rates of small grains can be high biomass producers. When planted with a no-till drill, 30 pounds per acre of rye produced comparable biomass to 90 pounds per acre across locations. Gamble said cutting seeding rates is a great way to save money on cover crops. Increase rates by about 50 percent when broadcasting seed.
- Patience is a virtue when it comes to legumes. Across the state, Gamble said legume cover crops looked puny until mid-March, but rapid growth began in early spring. AU Merit hairy vetch was particularly useful for providing a solid ground cover to smother winter weeds.
Gamble and her team recorded and published their results in Lessons Learned from 2022 On-Farm Cover Crop Demos, available at www.aces.edu.
The team evaluated Wrens Abruzzi rye, FL401 rye, Trical 342 triticale, Cosaque oat, Legend oat, Wyo winter pea, AU Merit hairy vetch, AU Sunrise crimson clover, Dixie crimson clover and a Wrens Abruzzi/Dixie Crimson Clover mix.
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