Cover crops can provide many benefits; they can protect the soil from erosion, add organic matter, stimulate soil life, provide nitrogen, scavenge or retain nitrogen, reduce compaction and improve water holding capacity. Interest in cover crops has been growing in recent years. Including a cover crop after winter wheat is the easiest way to start including cover crops in most typical field crop rotations. Red clover establishment in winter wheat has been variable in recent years, many farmers end up with a poor stand of red clover after wheat harvest, while others have abandoned the practice all together. There is still a desire to reap some of the benefits of red clover so farmers are looking to other cover crops to provide some or all of the benefits. There are a number of different cover crops options to choose from. Planting date, managing cover crop growth and control afterwards are just a few of the things growers must consider when planting a cover crop. The seed is relatively expensive in some cases so it is important to get the most out of the seeding operation. After winter wheat harvest the soil conditions are often not optimal for establishment. Planting a mixture may reduce establishment risk. The purpose of this project is to optimize establishment and provide the most benefit from cover crops following winter wheat.
Some growers are looking for ways to plant cover crops in other parts of their rotation. Establishing cover crops after grain corn is difficult as there is little or no growing season left in Ontario. There is interest in exploring the seeding of cover crops into standing corn. A project currently exists where various cover crops are seeded into seed corn. There are a couple of units capable of seeding cover crops into corn. There is potential to link with the seed corn project and explore seeding cover crops into standing grain corn. This will be explored as a small sub project of this partner project. Several cover crops and mixtures (based on the results of the seed corn project) would be seeded into standing corn and evaluated for stand establishment. A second purpose of the project is to evaluate options for establishing cover crops in standing corn.