Corn School: A Fresh Look at Interseeding Cover Crops in Corn

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Everything old is new again. That’s certainly the case when it comes to interseeding cover crops into corn.

In this episode of Real Agriculture’s Corn School, University of Guelph-Ridgetown College researcher David Hooker unearths some historic evidence of Ontario farmers’ and researchers’ fascination with cover crops and their efforts to interseed them in growing cornfields.

Standing in front of a sign from the 1980s that touts interseeding research plots at Ridgetown College, Hooker explains that interseeding in corn is nothing new – it’s been around since the 1950s.

Dave Hooker
Ridgetown College researcher David Hooker says interseeding cover crops in corn is nothing new. He unearthed a sign from a 1980s interseeding research trial at the college.

With renewed enthusiasm for cover crops and interseeding, Hooker and a team of researchers from across Ontario are currently running a multi-year trial to evaluate three different cover crop mixes interseeded in corn – red clover, annual ryegrass and a clover/ryegrass mix.

Hooker explains the goal of the research is to evaluate the risk of interseeding and the economics. The first research plots in 2015 produced excellent stands and the crop “looked fantastic” early in the season,” explains Hooker. “But last year we had a very droughty August and the water deficit was incredible. The corn crop was highly competitive and the cover crop did not like it.”

In 2016, the story has been very different. All research locations suffered from drought conditions early in the season, explains Hooker. “The cover crops were planted when it was dry and they struggled at all three locations to get out of the ground.”

Things didn’t look good when Real Agriculture visited the Ridgetown plot in late July, but Hooker was hopeful that August and September rains would reinvigorate the cover crops and they would produce significant biomass and contribute to soil health. Those rains did eventually come and we’ll hear more about the trial results this winter. Stay tuned.

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