By Katie Eikleberry
Spring in Ashland County has arrived! Storms are rolling in, temperatures are rising and cover crops are growing. The green from cover crops above the ground is just as beautiful as the benefits cover crops create below.
This spring would be a great time to look into the advantages of using a roller crimper to terminate cover crops for even more benefits. A roller crimper has blunt steel blades spaced roughly 7-10 inches apart. As the crimper rolls across the field, the blades “crimp” or injure the plant stems to terminate plant growth.
When crimping, timing is important to be effective, it must be done before the head goes to seed. When a cover crop is being terminated by a crimper there are several advantages beyond just mechanically terminating. It helps suppress weeds by forming a mulch, decreases hot summer soil temperatures, conserves soil moisture, decreases soil erosion and adds organic matter. With crimping it can also lessen the use of herbicides such as glyphosate.
Cover crop termination isn’t the only planning that can be considered this time of year. Planting season is right around the corner and interseeding cover crops can be also. Interseeding takes preparation for timing and research of seed variety for what works best on your own farm. Research has shown when cover crops are planted into corn at V6 growth stage it does not compete with the corn crop.
Variety selection can be one of the biggest challenges. When considering a seed variety, a shade tolerant seed is necessary. Annual rye grass and red clover have worked well in trials from Penn State where radish, cow peas and hairy vetch have not worked well since they are not very shade tolerant.
Nutrient benefits can also come with interseeding cover crops when seed selection is done carefully. Legumes can fix atmospheric nitrogen and help feed the corn crop but again varieties matter, and it could be a gamble to use a Variety Not Stated (VNS) seed.
Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District has added a 15-foot roller crimper to the equipment rental program. The roller crimper was purchased with funds from a Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District Partners in Watershed Grant.
For those that live within the MWCD there is no cost for rental, if you are located outside of the jurisdiction, rental is $50/day. Along with the roller crimper there is also a 6-row interseeder that is available for use for $5/acre for those that are within the MWCD jurisdiction and $10/acre for those outside.
With these both being awarded to Ashland SWCD through the MWCD Partners in Watershed Grant it is a great opportunity for producers to be able to put these practices into use with low or no rental cost. For more information on rental equipment, call Katie Eikleberry with Ashland SWCD at 419-285-7645.
(Katie Eikleberry is the conservation specialist at Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District. She leads ASWD’s equipment rental program, county planning, conservation status checks, technical assistant, pollution investigations and aerial cover crop program. She can be reached at 419-285-7645.)
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