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Penn State Extension Hosts Fall Cover Crop Field Days

Posted: November 23, 2011

Considering the interest in cover crops by farmers, the general public, and others, the Penn State Extension Crop Management Team established cover crop trials on dairy farms across Pennsylvania since 2009.
Ron Hoover speaks with attendees about cover crops

Ron Hoover speaks with attendees about cover crops

At eight recent field days across the state we reviewed results from the first year of the study, observed the performance of the cover crops this fall and interacted with peers and specialists during these events to learn more about cover crops and their potentials.

Cover crops can help improve soil quality, save manure nitrogen or fix nitrogen for the following crop, supply rescue forage and can lead to improved ground and surface water quality. Considering the interest in cover crops by farmers, the general public, and others, the Crop Management Team at Penn State Cooperative Extension established cover crop trials on dairy farms across Pennsylvania since 2009. At eight recent field days across the state we reviewed results from the first year of the study, observed the performance of the cover crops this fall and interacted with peers and specialists during these events to learn more about cover crops and their potentials. We are focusing on mixtures because of the way species complement each other to meet producer goals and reduce risks of failure of any particular species.

These are the cover crop mixtures demonstrated at all locations:

Crimson Clover and Annual Ryegrass

  • Low cost
  • Slow fall growth
  • Fast spring growth
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Heavy root mass
  • Excellent forage in spring

Crimson Clover and Triticale

  • Vigorous spring growth
  • Excellent winterhardiness of triticale
  • Nutrient retention and uptake
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Excellent forage in spring, high tonnage

Crimson Clover and Forage Oat

  • Fast fall growth
  • Oat dies – only clover left in spring
  • Nutrient retention and uptake in fall
  • Nitrogen fixation, esp in spring
  • Nitrogen for following crop

Annual Ryegrass and Forage Oat

  • Excellent nitrogen retention in fall
  • Fast growing in fall and spring
  • Fibrous roots for compaction alleviation
  • Grazing/harvest in fall and spring possible
  • Nutrient uptake in fall and spring

Cereal Rye and Oat

  • Maximize fall and spring growth
  • Good fall cover and winter survival (rye)
  • High nutrient uptake in fall and spring
  • Potential for fall (forage oat) and spring forage harvests

Radish, Vetch and Rye

  • Enhanced biodiversity
  • Excellent winterhardiness of rye
  • Heavy nitrogen feeder in fall
  • Nitrogen fixation in spring
  • Potential for grazing in fall
  • Forage harvest possible in spring