Variety and Planting Date Demonstration for Organic Small Grain Cover Crops

Cover crop characteristics may be an important factor in the management and success of an organic no-till grain system. A typical rotation includes a fall-planted small grain cover crop following corn harvest and preceding soybean planting. In the upper Midwest, rye is the small grain cover crop of choice due to its cold hardiness and high production of biomass. The planting date in fall ranges, depending on whether it is planted after corn harvested for silage or for grain. Management of the rye cover crop in spring in no-till organic systems is dependent on the physiological development of the cover crop, since mechanical kill methods are not successful until the cover crop is past anthesis. The success of the cover crop mulch at suppressing weeds during the soybean phase may depend on both the biomass production and allelochemical content of the straw.

Several of these characteristics important to management may vary between rye cultivars or among different small grain species. A demonstration was established at the University of Wisconsin Arlington Agricultural Research Station, fall 2007 - spring 2008 to investigate possible variation in growth characteristics, biomass production, and development between different rye varieties and small grain species planted at two different planting dates.

Authors: Emily Bernstein, Joshua Posner, David Stoltenberg, Janet Hedtcke