Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should adopt a new practice across the entire farm in one year without first evaluating it on a much smaller land base.
Never has this been more evident, perhaps, than the #PlantGreen concept sweeping the Ontario landscape. First off: Ontario farmers should be applauded for their rapid adoption (or at least trial) of new cover crop types, mixes, and timing.
That said, 2016 hasn’t been a kind year for those who went whole-hog into the concept of planting into a living cover crop. A few farmers skipped the trial portion of this new practice and got severely burned; some are facing zero yield on certain corn fields.
And that’s a big problem for the short AND long term, says RealAgriculture’s agronomist Peter Johnson, because cover crops are a great thing, and we need to make this practice work.
So what happened? To get to the bottom the pros and cons of #plantgreen, we zip back to early September during the Wheat Pete’s Word LIVE! sessions at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show (article continues below:
In this video, Johnson explains the reasons we want to avoid bare ground, and why limiting the time during the growing season without living roots systems is a good thing. But we also need to understand yield losses to crop-weed competition — corn is especially sensitive to this. If a corn plant emerges next to a green weed, it flips a switch to put up more top growth at the expense of root growth. Does the corn plant know if it emerges next to a friendly cover crop or a nasty weed? Nope. Can the corn crop flip the switch back if the green crop dies off? Again, no. And therein lies part of the problem.
Johnson also explains the concept of biological strip tillage, why your mantra should be Go Slow, and promises to get back to you, loyal readers, with an update on the corn plant green trial he’s got nearly ready to harvest.
Want more of Wheat Pete’s Word LIVE!? Here’s the entire Thursday discussion, where he talks soybeans, maxed out winter wheat seeding rates and more: