Steve Groff hosted his 18th annual field day on cover crops at his farm outside Lancaster PA on Nov. 7 -- 8. There were testimonials from early adopters of this new wave of cover cropping. We also saw some demos of seeders, including an innovative system for knocking down a standing cover crop so that a new crop, such as corn, can be effectively seeded. We were treated to a brief demo of seeding via helicopter, however, I wasn't so sure that the pilot should even take off given the windy conditions.
Our interest for being there was to learn more about the need for seeding cover crops following corn. The challenge is to get the crop seeded soon enough that it can get established before winter. One strategy is to grow corn that takes fewer days to mature, leaving a longer period after harvest in the fall before the first killing frost. There's another strategy developed by Greg Roth and colleagues at Penn State that features an interseeder for seeding a cover crop while sidedressing N in early summer. We are working on a solution for seeding cover crops during August, just before the corn begins to senesce, allowing light to penetrate through the canopy.
Cover crops offer a great way to help manage nutrients on croplands. There are certainly challenges to working cover crops into with corn, and we believe that the more tools growers have in their toolbox, the better.