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LEARN HOW TO STOP THE INVASIVE SPOTTED LANTERNFLY
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Oats. Photo: E. Swackhamer
Wheat and barley harvest is underway in many parts of Pennsylvania and oat harvest is not far away. If you do not plan to double crop with soybeans, there is a great window of opportunity to establish a cover crop. Cover crops can be used for different reasons, such as: provide soil erosion protection; improve soil health; alleviate compaction; absorb nutrients from manure; control weeds; fix atmospheric nitrogen for the next crop; harvest for hay (lage); and as a grazing resource. The reason for using a cover crop will determine which species or mixture of species you choose, as well as how you manage it. For example, farmers who use a cover crop only for soil protection and improvement typically look for economical options in terms of the seed costs or seeding rate. In contrast, farmers who count on harvesting or grazing a cover crop are typically willing to pay more for the seed and often use a higher seeding rate to obtain large yields of high feed quality. Farmers who count on nitrogen fixation may be willing to pay more for a cover crop because they can reduce nitrogen fertilizer applications for the following crop. At this time of the year you have many options for cover crop species:
The species we have reviewed can be used in mixtures. In fact, there are many advantages to using mixtures instead of single species. You look for species that complement each other for the purpose sought. Although it has become popular to promote ‘more species is better’, we have found that that is not always the case. Some species can outcompete and suffocate all others. An example is radish planted at 10 lbs/A at the end of July, or rye planted at 1-2 bu/A in September. The radish will suffocate all other species in the fall, and because it winterkills, the field will be bare in the spring. In this case it would be important to drastically reduce the seeding rate of radish in the mix to only 1-2 lbs/A. Rye planted at 1-2 bu/A will result in a mix totally dominated by rye in the spring. Therefore, it is also important to reduce the rye seeding rate in the mix or use another species such as wheat or triticale. More information about species selection and how to compose mixtures can be found in the Cover Crop Chapter of the Penn State Agronomy Guide.
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