Waiting for the relatively warm, sunny weather that boosts glyphosate’s activity is just one factor in determining when to terminate a cover crop. Timing decisions can also manage variables like soil moisture.

Mike and Mark Trausch of Edon, Ohio, held off on terminating their cereal rye after the late rains this spring, using the fast-growing foliage to pump water out of the root zone.

“This year, we’re trying to get a little height on it to suck up some moisture,” says Mike. “We want to get at least 2 feet out of it – before it starts to head out. Then we’ll spray it and retain that moisture for later. When it goes down, it will hold onto that moisture for a long time.”

That’s a big difference from the brothers’ strategy during last year’s drought. “Last year, we burned our rye off early,” Trausch explains. “It turned out to be a good thing, dry as it was.”

The Trausches spray their cereal rye about three days before no-tilling into the standing vegetation, allowing them to cut off competition between the cover crop and the cash crop while still being able to drill into the dense foliage while it’s green and flexible.

Managing cover crops takes practice and some finesse, but a little planning and a stiff dose of well-applied herbicide keeps them in check.

“The only way to get through that learning curve,” says Jamie Scott in Indiana, “is to try something.”