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A New Way To Look At That Cover Crop.

by Randy Shannon

Have you ever thought to experiment by no-till seeding alfalfa into a rye cover crop? The experiment has been working for a number of farmers in Western Wisconsin. Rye that is established in the fall serves as a cover crop during the fall and winter. Manure can be applied to the field prior to seeding rye. As soon as the field is fit to seed in the spring, go in and no-till alfalfa at the normal rate into the rye cover crop. The rye continues to grow and you can harvest when it reaches the desired maturity for forage.


Last spring's seeding period was challenging because of excessive rainfall.  The wet conditions delayed seeding until the rye was 6 - 8 inches tall. The drill was still able to plant the seed into the soil and after harvesting the rye the alfalfa came on strong with an excellent stand. The timing of the first crop from the new seeding coincides with the second crop of alfalfa. 

No-till seeding alfalfa in the spring into a fall seeded cover crop allows you to have a growing crop protecting soil from erosion and capturing nutrients. In periods of excessive moisture it can improve conditions for seeding and allow for earlier planting of alfalfa. Check out more information on cover crops from Discovery Farms . 

Reprinted with permission from Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, www.pdpw.org