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Dale Mutch, Extension specialist for IPM/cover crops at Michigan State University, promotes the cover crops to get more organic material back into the soil, break up crop rotations and maintain root structure in the soil for a longer time.
One way growers can effectively incorporate various cover crops into their current rotations is aerial seeding before harvest. Producers are starting to plant cover crops such as rye, winter peas or radishes when soybeans are at 10% yellow leaf, or when corn is at black layer and starting to dry down. This opens up the canopy to allow seed to reach the soil. Some farmers chop corn-plant tops to increase seed-to-soil contact when aerial seeding, improving germination before corn harvest, Mutch says.
Soils differ as much as growers do. “Producers should not expect to just go in and do one thing to improve soil structure,” Mutch says. Crop rotation, residue accumulation and cover crops can go a long way to help.