“Cover crops can work in any system,” Carlson says, but the best fit is with no-till, strip-till, or spring tillage.

Jim Zoss, the Illinois farmer, says cover crops worked very well in his strip-till system. He planted his first cover crop on Sept. 13, 2012, following early corn harvest. His goal was to capture N not used by the drought-stricken corn crop. Zoss drilled 50 acres of annual ryegrass alone, and 60 acres of annual ryegrass mixed with oilseed radish, at a seeding rate of 10 lbs./acre of annual ryegrass and 2 lb./acre of radishes. A week later, he planted 40 acres of oats after corn. He seeded the cover crops in 7.5-inch rows, capping every fourth row on the grain drill to create un-planted strips 30 inches apart. “The blank row is where we made our strips with RTK” later that fall.

Zoss got excellent stands of all three cover crops, spending about $12/acre for seed and $9/acre for drilling and labor. Unfortunately, most of the annual ryegrass died over the winter. However, he still had roots 18 inches deep, which helped hold the soil during last spring’s torrential rains. Zoss killed the surviving annual ryegrass with his regular preplant burndown of glyphosate plus Sharpen. “Then we planted as usual. There was no residue in the strips.”