The most common questions are what, how and when to plant, so here is my favorite mix, rates based on heavy grazing in my area and proper planting dates in the Midwest.NOTE: This thread not only covers the attributes and how to's of planting cereal grains as a food source for whitetails but also covers all aspects of using cereal grains and legumes as cover crops to be tilled under as green manure to build organic matter, pull up nutrients from the subsoil and use legumes to add nitrogen to the soil.
Do not spray, just plow or till under any plant source from clovers to sorghum's and green growing grains like rye and oats. When using small equipment, mowing may be required first followed by tillage to incorporate the plants into the soil while still green.
Seed sourcesI mix the following:
Winter rye 50-80#'s per acre (56#'s = a bushel)
Spring oats 80-120#'s per acre (32#'s = a bushel)
Austrian Winter Peas or 4010/6040 Forage peas 20-80#'s per acre
Red Clover 8-12#'s per acre or white clover at 6#'s per acre
Groundhog Forage Radish 5#'s per acre
Plant seeds roughly 1-2" deep by lightly tilling or discing in, and then cultipack to cover, broadcast clover and radish seed and re-cultipack
Plant fall grains no earlier then the last week of August through mid September, earlier is better when adding peas and clover
Albert Lea Seed Company
Welter Seed (check under "other grains")
Adams Briscoe Seed Company
Fall Rye Grain
Austrian Winter Peas
Frank Forage Oats
Alta-Swede Mammoth Red Clover
PM nannyslayer on this site if your in the mid west southern Iowa area
Cereal Grains include winter rye, winter wheat, spring and fall triticale, barley, buckwheat and oats and are perhaps one of the least expensive and easiest food plots that we can plant.
Of those listed winter rye (fall rye grain NOT ryegrass) is my favorite as it has a host of attributes not found in other grains. Rye is the most winterhardy, surviving the most brutal winters, grows on a wide range of soil Ph from acid to alkaline, is a nitrogen scavenger (compared to wheat that sucks up N like a sponge!! ), is one of the ultimate cover crops because of it's allelopathic effects on many types of weeds and it's ability to break up hardpan soils and is one of the highest in crude protein.
Recycle Nitrogen? Rye is one of the few plants capable of taking up nitrogen and then re-releasing it when tilled under the following spring! Not going to happen with wheat, when it use nitrogen it's gone!!
Why cereal rye?A rye cover crop and manure applications are mutually beneficial. Manure nutrients aid in decomposition of the rye, offsetting any potential yield drag, and rye captures and recycles the manure nutrients effectively to the future corn crop, reducing commercial fertilizer needs.
Rye is one of the best scavengers of nitrogen and reduces leaching losses on both sandy soils and tile-drained land. The fast growing, fibrous root system can capture 25 to 100 pounds of soil nitrogen per acre. Seeding rye in late summer or early fall will allow it to scavenge nitrogen. When organic N (from manure or legumes) is still available. Rye can capture this nitrogen and recycle it to the following season. The actual amount of nitrogen that is recycled is highly variable. A presidedress soil nitrate test can help determine the amount of nitrogen credit to take for the upcoming corn crop.
Rye should be allowed to grow over the winter to continue taking up N in the spring.
Rye is the hardiest of cereals and can be seeded later in the fall than other cover crops, and it provides top growth and extensive root growth. It will germinate at cold temperatures—as low as 34 degrees F—and it will resume growing at 38 degrees in the spring. This makes it possible to seed rye after corn, sugar beet or bean harvest until the ground freezes.
It is relatively inexpensive to plant, and the seed is readily available or easily grown.
Easy to establish, rye can be aerial seeded in standing corn/silage and before leaf drop in soybean. Rye can be broadcast alone or with dry fertilizers, can be added to manure tanks for slurry seeding or drilled (which provides the most consistent stands).
It outperforms most other crops on infertile, sandy or acidic soil. It is also tolerant of a variety of soil types and grows well on both poorly and well-drained soils.
Rye can recycle potassium from deeper in the soil profile for future crop use.
Rye is effective at suppressing weeds. It competes with winter annuals and inhibits growth of spring weeds. As rye residue decomposes, it releases allelopathic compounds that are harmful to the growth of weeds.
The rapid fall and spring growth can stabilize sandy soil, trap snow and improve infiltration.
Rye is utilized for many cropping systems, including fruits and vegetables, where it can be left in narrow strips to reduce wind erosion.
Rye, and all cover crops, build soil quality over time by adding organic matter. Long-term benefits include improved soil structure, tilth, water infiltration and water-holding capacity.
More about Rye
Attributes of Rye
High on Rye
Winter Rye for Extending the Grazing Season
Cover Crops: Cereal Rye
CEREAL RYE - Secale cereale
Cereal Rye for Cover Cropping
These links show that rye has higher crude and digestible protein then all other cereal grains such as wheat, triticale and oats.
Winter Rye for Extending the Grazing SeasonForage Dry Yield
(ton/acre) CP (%)* NDF ( %)* ADF ( %)*
Rye 1.7 b 19.4 a 48.6 b 26.8 a
Early-cut wheat 2.6 a 16.2 b 59.1 a 30.6 b
Late-cut wheat 2.7 a 14.0 c 59.8 a 31.6 c
LSD 0.2 1.0 0.9 0.8
* ADF = acid detergent fiber; NDF = neutral detergent fiber; CP = crude protein.
Managing Small Grains for Livestock Forage
Understanding Forage Nutrition for Ruminants
Interpreting Forage Quality Reports
I usually mix oats with my winter rye but oats like wheat is consistently lower in crude protein:
Cereal Forages for Spring Planting
Oats compared to wheat and triticale
Whitetails absolutely love rye and will dig thru deep snows to get at it during winter months and even the highest deer densities can not destroy it. I often hear people touting winter wheat but wheat cannot hold a candle to the many positives of rye and in fact has to many negative attributes to even consider it unless rye seed is not easily obtained.
Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye making it a great option but it often is not readily available without expensive shipping.Less than 50% of the rye grown in the U.S. is harvested for grain, with the remainder used as pasture, hay, or as a cover crop. About half of the amount harvested for grain is used for livestock feed or exported, and the remainder is used for alcoholic beverages, food, and seed. In the Midwest, rye is primarily grown for grain, but occasionally for hay or pasture.
It can also be grown as a cover or green manure crop. In addition to contributing organic matter, rye reduces soil erosion and enhances water penetration and retention. Furthermore, due to its allelopathic effect, some evidence suggests that rye could be exploited for weed control. It has been widely reported that residues of fall-planted, spring-killed rye reduces total weed biomass by 60% to 95% when compared to controls with no residue. Rye residue which remains at the soil surface can potentially modify the physical and chemical environment during seed germination and plant growth.
Rye matures earlier than wheat or triticale and has the highest crude protein levels.From a forage quality standpoint, winter rye will have a higher crude protein percent than winter wheat. Winter rye crude protein concentration usually is between 13 and 14 percent if adequately fertilized with nitrogen
Rye generally provides more forage than other small grains in late fall and early spring because of its rapid growth and its adaptation to low temperatures.
“Rye is widely adapted when compared to the other small grains,” Ransom says. “For instance, rye is not affected
by the very acidic soils like wheat can be. It will grow in many places wheat won’t.”
Rye - Longer Grazing, fewer weeds!
Oats are a great fall food source but even the most winterhardy oats will be killed when temps plunge into the 20 degree range.
Buckwheat is a very short term grain used almost solely as a soil builder that is planted in early summer then tilled under as "green manure" in late summer and has limited use as an attractant. The first hint of frost will kill it making it unusable here in the midwest for a fall plot.
Here in SE Iowa I plant a mix of rye and oats each fall along with some "candy" in the form of Austrian Winter Peas. Hairy Vetch is another nitrogen fixing legume that can be added to add nitrogen for the next years crop but red clover has proven to be a better option for me. Plant AWP's at 15-50#'s per acre.
Plant rye at 80-100#'s per acre (56#'s per bushel)and I mix spring oats at roughly 2-3 bushel per acre (32# per bushel), planting time is roughly the last week in August through Labor Day in my area. Planting too early means the grains will mature and turn rank and unpalatable to deer. To late means they will not have enough growth to withstand heavy grazing.
I rarely use fertilizer although adding urea (nitrogen) will hasten growth! 100-150#'s of urea would be plenty!
In late August I begin by discing or tilling down the previous red clover
and then fitting it down again prior to seeding the rye
If adding peas, vetch or clover be sure to add inoculate which is roughly $5 a bag from places like Welter Seed:
Moisten legume seed (not the cereal grains) with a dab of water and mix the peat based inoculate into the seed.
I use one of these for larger amount of seed or use a bag seeder for smaller areas.
I mix the rye, oats and peas right in the hopper
I spread seed on the freshly till ground and then cover it with a cultipacker. Adding 100#'s of 46-0-0 urea is optional if you require lush rapid growth to keep up with hungry deer... Spread fertilizer and seed before covering.
Then I spread red clover seed at 8-15#'s per acre for a plow down or white clover at 6#'s per acre for a permanent clover plot and re-pack to cover the clover seed. DO NOT add clover seed to the rye because it will be "buried" in the loosely tilled soil.
I commonly use Alta-Swede Mammoth Red Clover because it is inexpensive at $2 a pound at Welter Seed. Deer love it and it is an awesome soil builder and source of nitrogen.
Till, plant rye, pack, plant clover, re-pack...looks like this when I'm done
Don't let the big equipment fool you, rye will grow if broadcast onto bare soil! it works great to broadcast into standing soybeans or even wide row corn. Many cattlemen aerial seed rye into standing corn to be grazed by cattle after the corn is harvested but seed at higher rates just ahead of a heavy rain if possible.
In a few days it looks like thisNOTE: germination of uncovered seed is substantially less then properly covered seed! Always cover cereal grain seed and cultipack to firm the seed bed whenever possible, not doing so can result in a mediocre stand especially if dry weather follows seeding.
this shows baby clover
Here you can see the Austrian winter peas popping up also
This is the same field Oct 1st already heavily grazed to the ground!
Less heavily grazed areas should look like this by October 1st... NOTE: This shows the height of brassicas planted with rye in late August, they simply don't have enough tie to put on any real growth. IMO it's a waste to add them to fall plantings...plant them in late July or early August for best results...
This is oats alone also being grazed hard by late September
Despite the heavy grazing the rye remains green and attractive even though it's now mid December in this pic
This compares to brassicas on the left that had been murdered a month before
They beat runways through my switchgrass to get to the rye
Oats however are toast by this point
Compared to rye still green!
They feed on it all winter
By the New Year other crops/food sources are gone and deer are still flocking to the rye
By March it has been grazed to the dirt...
but still they are drawn to it and leave behind "prizes" that are easy pickins!
Late March it's still drawing deer and turkeys like a magnet!
April showers spring the dormant rye to life!
This pic shows rye laying on the soil surface yet germinating and growing!
Rye is perfect to broadcast into standing soybeans in very late August just before leaf drop which will leave a field of green rye and soybean grain that will last all winter depending on deer density. Broadcast at 150#'s per acre on bare ground into standing soys or wide row corn.
Cereal rye grows very quickly which is why we use care not to plant it to early in the fall and these pics help you understand that it is more like wheat then grass to distinguish from ryegrass (like one plants in a lawn)
Cereal rye heads out just like wheat or any cereal grain (hint...rye bread... )
The red clover added the fall before will soon look like this and provides high quality forage until tilled under for the next crop.
In mid July I clip the rye and red clover and then either till it under fro brassicas or let it grow for another month before tilling under for rye again.
A short term late spring through summer cover crop option is buckwheat which is a great soil builder ahead of a fall clover plot.
Austrian or Forage Peas
AWP and forage (field peas) are almost identical and provide the candy in your cereal grain plot! You can plant 20-100#'s per acre with the winter rye/oat mix and deer will clean them up quickly! Peas are legumes, so order pea inoculate (Welter Seed carries if for 6 bucks a bag) and if they achieve any growth at all they will help fix some nitrogen for the next crop.
These are 30 days
6 weeks old and being heavily grazed in mid October
By mid November the peas are nearly gone but by then have served their purpose!
Plant buckwheat in very late spring to early summer after ALL danger of frosts, it is NOT a fall food plot crop!
Plant at 40-50#'s per acre 1" to 1-1/2" deep by broadcasting or drilling
Till soil, broadcast seed and cultipack to cover
No fertilizer needed as buckwheat is a soil building green manure crop and will grow on poor soils
Buckwheat is not a legume however so I use it only in cases where I will follow it with a late summer seeding of clover or alfalfa.
Baby buckweat looks like this:While many people think that buckwheat is a cereal grain, it is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel making it a suitable substitute for grains for people who are sensitive to wheat or other grains that contain protein glutens. Buckwheat flowers are very fragrant and are attractive to bees that use them to produce a special, strongly flavored, dark honey.
Don't plant buckwheat until very late May or early June as it is a WARM weather plant!!
Buckwheat will grow in poor soil conditions and grows rapidly! This is pic is a 6 weeks...
When the buckwheat is fully flowered it's time to plow, dis or till it under before it goes to seed and while it's still green
OatsBuckwheat has the reputation of using phosphate unavailable to other crops, thereby increasing the amount of phosphorus available to following crops. To take advantage of its large biomass, buckwheat is incorporated between 4 and 7 weeks after planting, before the first seeds have set. It is disked down at 10% bloom and left on the surface for a few days to dry. When plants start to crinkle when stepped on, it is time to be disked into the soil. If the field is left until full bloom, there is more likelihood of volunteer problems the following year. A second or even third planting may be possible in long growing seasons.
More about buckwheat
In the spring I often plant a combination of oats and Beseem clover either as a nurse crop for white clover or alfalfa or as a spring, summer green manure cover crop to be tilled under.
Plant oats at 80-120#'s per acre, berseem at 10-20#'s per acre and if starting a white clover plot add it at 6#'s per acre. Use lower rates of oats and berseem if using as a nurse crop for clover, higher rates if plowing it down.
Any common oats will work and the clover is baby berseem clover which is an annual and can NOT be frost seeded! It is an awesome fast growing nitrogen fixing clover that deer love and did I mention it is very inexpensive??
By late June it looks like this
and the berseem clover is flourishing!
Tilling under "green manure cover crops" helps build organic matter
EVERYTHING plowed under (weeds included) helps build the soil but legumes of all kinds as they break down begin to release nitrogen that can be used by the next crop. This however is a slow process and may not provide all of the next rops needs when it needs it.The soil is a living ecosystem, although most living components are
invisible to the naked eye. As soil microorganisms, insects, and worms feed
on organic matter (e.g. compost, manure, and many manufactured fertilizers
and pesticides) nutrients become available for plant use. Their activity also
significantly improves soil structure, reducing compaction, and increasing
water and air movement.
Soil organisms do much of the work for gardeners of improving soil tilth
(suitability of a soil to support plant growth, especially as it relates to ease
of tillage, fitness for a seedbed, impedance to seedling emergence and root
penetration) and making nutrients available to plants.
Encouraging their efforts is central to building a healthy fertile soil
supportive to optimum plant growth. They require an environment that is
damp (like a wrung out sponge, i.e. – near field capacity) but not soggy (has
air – i.e.- aerobic), between 50 – 90o F. They require organic matter from
soil amendments (compost, crop residues) and/or mulch as a food source for
bacteria and fungi.
In regards to oats...I have been aware for some time that many unknowing hunters were being misled into planting expensive oats with a "big buck" on the bags with the illusion they were somehow...better...A common misconception is that the nitrogen is released into the soil from the legume roots. Research has shown there is a release of some soluble nitrogen compounds such as amino acids and ammonium from intact legume roots and nodules, but it is an insignificant amount. The primary pathways for nitrogen transfer from the legume to the soil are through grazing livestock and decomposition of dead legume plant material. When legume forage is consumed by grazing livestock, from 80 to 90% of the nitrogen in that forage passes through the animal and is excreted in the urine and feces. Unfortunately about 50% of the nitrogen in the urine is lost through volatilization. Another problem is the distribution of feces and urine on the pasture. With continuous grazing at low stocking rates, much of the animal excreta is concentrated around the water source and under shade trees. Animal excreta distribution is improved with moderate to high stocking rates and with rotational grazing systems where stock density is higher.
The root system and unused leaves and stems of annual legumes die at plant maturity and are decomposed by soil microbes over time. Nitrogen contained in this plant material is released over time and is available to other plants. However, because most of this nitrogen is not available until after the legume dies, only grasses that follow the legume growing season can use it. This is a major nitrogen transfer pathway for cool-season annual legumes overseeded on warm-season perennial grasses because the clover-growing period occurs before the warm-season grass-growing period.
Being a farmer I knew better but I decided to do a side by side test on two different farms and prove it to myself and others.
I purchased common Jerry (variety) spring oats for $16 for a 64# bag (2 bushel) and Buck Forage oats for $35 a 50# bag...
I tilled, planted and marked out side by side plots in different field on farms 20 miles apart so that there could be no doubts about the outcome.
Some plots I added fertilizer and to others nothing
In this plot there are 4 strips, two each of each variety of oats and they look identical at this point
This larger field also contains strips of each and hear it's large enough that the Jerry shows taller and greener then the BFO
Here Jerry left BFO right...notice the Jerry is also greener and more attractive
I expected only to prove little difference in winter hardiness and that deer would eat both so I was completely surprised to notice that deer devoured the Jerry oats while not touching the expensive BFO planted right beside it!!
These are Jerry oats clearly showing the grazed plants
This pic is of healthy green BFO that is completely untouched!!
These are exclusion cages with Jerry oats in the background and BFO in the foreground...notice the Jerry is taller while th BFO is the same in the cage as out...
No oats can survive freezing weather but how much can they take??
This is Oct. 26th when hard frosts nuked our flowers
But left both varieties of oats unphased...
Nov 2nd temps dropped to 23 degrees
By Nov 25th we had had repeated nights when temps dropped as low as 12 degrees! The oats started to show signs of stress but by now the center point of my hunt is pasted (the breeding season)
In the end the BFO did stay greener a few weeks longer however it was amoot point since deer still refused to touch the stuff!
My QDMA thread on the subject of BFO vs Common Oats: Oats vs BFO
Using rye insures all winter feed and adding oats and peas for candy is a far better more affordable option that deer will not turn up their noses at as they did with the BFO. I always encourage everyone to view "big buck" claims with a grain of salt because if it seems to good to be true...it probably is.....
Welter seed is another source however shipping large seeds is expensive so I stick with saller seeds like clovers or brassicas from them.
You can use their site as a source of information, planting rates and some idea of prices regardless of where you purchase seed.
Clover: Clover seed
Grains: Cereal Grains
Forage Radish is something I have to mention in this thread because it is an awesome cover crop capable of breaking up hardpan soils and providing deer forage at the same time!
Ampac - Groundhog Tillage Radish
It doesn't look a whole lot different and deer and livestock forage on the leaves just like other brassicas, the difference is in the extremely long root.
Many of us have very hard pan clay soils that we are trying to improve by various soil building methods and Forage Radishes are a fantastic, simple and economical way of loosening soil, bringing up nutrients from the sub soil and feeding deer at the same time.
The tops don't look much different then other brassicas but I find deer hammer them even when they won't eat other brassicas.
The following spring however the rotted tap roots will leave deep holes that will have shattered the hard pan. Water runs into the holes, the freezing and thawing breaks up compacted soils.
In the fall though the tender foliage attracts whitetails!
Imagine hard soils like a plate...what happens when we pour water on a plate? Pour anything on a hard surface and it's going to run off. Imagine roots trying to penetrate that hard plate, imagine the stress and energy on a plant as it's roots struggle for everything it needs, unable to go vertically where the "gold mine" lays.
Now...imagine a soft fluffy sponge...water and nutrients absorb instantly rather then running off. Tap roots of whatever we plant on loosened soils can penetrate deep into subsoil for moisture and nutrients previously "locked" beneath the hardpan or "plate" so to speak.
This is another pic of just how deep the radish root can go and because it can, it is able to bring up P&K and then leave it at topsoil level.
This pic compares the roots of field rye on the left, struggling to travel horizontally against the "plate" while the radish plunges straight thru the plate like a missile headed for Saddam's bunker!
Radishes for deer
Brassicas and Mustards for Cover Cropping
Like field rye, radishes suppress weeds both while growing and the following year. Starting to get the picture here?
Using the right combination of crops like rye, buckwheat and radishes we can loosen soil, build the organic matter, "haul" up hidden nutrients, soak up nitrogen..and that's just the beginning!
This is the new improved forage/tillage radish called Groundhog Forage radish available from Welter Seed
What is the difference between the "Groundhog" variety and the regular "oilseed radish"?
Groundhog radishes are an improved tillage variety...developed by Ampac Seed with more info at this link:
GH is a tillage radish...and this pic shows the difference
This pic shows the difference in GH versus Daikon radishes
Some folks wonder how deep the GH radish grows?? Note that the tap root can go several feet deeper then the radish itself.
This is one month after planting
Hard to beat for $2.65 a pound from Welter Seed!!
Outstanding winter annual weed control: Radishes suppress most winter annuals. Henbit and chickweed are no match for fast growing tillage radishes.
Earthworms and forage radish
Cedar Meadow Farm
Forage radish mixes to renovate field lanes
FORAGE RADISH, A NEW COVER CROP
Seed isn't expensive and is planted just exactly like other summer planted brassicas.
Some planting tipsSeeding rate: 8-10 lbs per acre when planted alone. Plant 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. If dry, plant 1 inch deep.
Seed size is slightly larger than alfalfa. The alfalfa setting will be close to desired tillage radish seeding rate.
Radishes are a quick covering crop that is usually up in 4 days
There are great pics of radishes broadcast into soybeans at leaf yellowing in this link: Growing Tillage RadishesTillage radishes are extremely competitive and will outgrow most other cover crops seeded as a companion cover crop. However, seeding rates can be adjusted in order that the tillage radishes don’t out compete the other species.
Successful establishment of mixtures has been obtained by planting alternating rows with a drill that has both a legume box and grain box. We have also found the variety “Jerry” oats to do well when mixed with Tillage radishes.
Tillage radishes germinate very easily- similar to rye. They can be broadcasted on the surface and will grow if there are sufficient seeds contacting the soil and moisture is adequate. This is a cheaper method of establishment but comes with the risk of poor or uneven germination. However successful broadcast establishment has been achieved by some farmers.
Aerial seeding into soybeans before leaf drop and into standing corn is possible but it has been observed that tillage radishes do not perform as well compared to drilling. The roots just don’t seem to be as aggressive even after the crop is harvested and they can capture full sunlight. Another risk with soybeans, is if the weather doesn’t cooperate with harvest, the radishes could grow up through the canopy and cause problems with green radish leaves entering the combine
All the pics and quotes come from the following links:Fertility: Tillage radishes will take up excess nitrogen after a crop. However, in order to fully express their rooting action, they need at least 60 lbs of N– accumulated either as residual or applied. In most instances, with high fertility fields, there is sufficient N left over from the previous crop. However, in low fertility fields, adding N is necessary to allow the radishes to achieve maximum rooting. Upon decomposition in the spring, N will then be released in time for utilization of a spring crop.
Tillage Radishes don’t like wet spots. Fields with a history of being wet are not a good choice to plant tillage radishes. One rule of thumb is if alfalfa can’t grow, neither will tillage radishes.
Radishes will winter kill when temperatures drop to the mid-teens on successive nights
Tillage radishes will winter kill similar to fall planted spring oats. One night in the teens will not take them out- it takes several nights in a row. Winter kill also depends on how warm it may get after a cold spell. Above normal temperatures after a few nights in the teens will allow the tillage radishes to recover until another cold snap arrives.
Tillage Radishes have an unpleasant odor when decaying. After tillage radishes are hit hard with cold weather and start to decay, they will emit an unpleasant odor-especially if warmer weather arrives. It’s no worse than manure per se, but then again for some it has caused them to investigate exactly where that “smell came from”.
Tillage Radish Research
Biotilling with forage radish
Cedar Meadow Farm
Overseed forage radish into soybeans
GRAZA Forage Radishes
Radishes for deep tillage
Seed is slightly over 2 bucks a pound very much like turnip and rape seed.
The seed I planted this year was Graza Radish and I don't know how it compares to Diakon Radishes at this point.
Graza Radish Seed
Welter Seed is now offering Oilseed Radish
Oilseed Radish Seed source
Albert Lea Seed Co. carries oilseed radish
Oilseed Radish Seed
Here is a source for Daikon Oil Radish and GroundHog Forage Radish
The Seed Center
There is a great post with plenty of pics showing deer eating the forage radishes in this QDM thread: Daikon radish update
Cereal grains work better then many other food sources in shady spots which also tend to have poor acid soils.
This is both oats and rye in such a spot
It's not likely to thrive but it can be enough to get deer to stop and take a bite...long enough to send a properly placed arrow to it's mark...
Understanding "Green Manure" and Nitrogen Fixation by Legumes
Tilling under any crop or plant including weeds while still green is an effective method of building organic matter and adding soil nutrients, some of which would be lost if the crop is killed or dried first. Dried straw or stalks is still beneficial but not nearly so as when we till under still green plants.
We can include clovers, peas and vetches with our cereal grain plantings (spring or fall) to add free nitrogen to the soil as the legume fixes N as it grows. This N is released slowly as the plant decomposes after being tilled under and addes organic matter at the same time. Legumes will release N from the roots after the plant has died even if the soil is not tilled but a certain percentage will be lost to the air or harvest as with soybeans, hay or grazing by livestock or wildlife.
The links below will help you understand in depth the concepts of nitrogen fixation bylegumes and the use of green manuring.
Nitrogen Fixation by LegumesNitrogen is the most limiting nutrient for plant growth. A legume plant´s ability to use nitrogen from the air is the best-known benefit of growing legumes but the least understood. Approximately 79% of the air is nitrogen gas. However, it is not in a form that plants can use. In reality it is not the plant that removes nitrogen from the air but Rhizobium bacteria, which live in small tumor like structures on the legume, plant roots called nodules. These bacteria can take nitrogen gas from the air in the soil and transform it into ammonium (NH4), which can be used by the plant. This ammonium is the same form as in ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) and ammonium sulfate (2 1-0-0) fertilizer.
The nitrogen fixation (N2-fixation) process between the legume plant and rhizobia bacteria is referred to as a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship. Each organism receives something from the other and gives back something in return. Rhizobia bacteria provide the legume plant with nitrogen in the form of ammonium and the legume plant provides the bacteria with carbohydrates as an energy source.
Nitrogen Fixation by Forage Legumes
Nitrogen Fixation and Inoculation of Forage Legumes
Forage Legumes for Nitrogen Production
Value of Legumes for Plowdown Nitrogen
Nitrogen Fertilizer Giveaway
Inoculation of Forage Legumes
Green Manure Cover CropsTable 1. Value and amount of nitrogen fixed by various legumes.
N fixed, lb/A/year N value, $, @
25¢/lb 35¢/lb 45¢/lb
Alfalfa 150-250 38-63 53-88 68-113
Red clover 70-200 19-50 26-70 34-90
White clover 75-150 19-38 26-53 34-68
Vetch, lespedeza, and other annual forage legumes
50-150 13-38 18-53 23-68
Managing cover cropsDefinition: Cover crops and green manures
Considerable confusion occurs relative to the use of the terms cover crops and green manures, as they are used in different ways by different authors. The terms are often used interchangeably. Traditionally the term "green manures" has referred to plants which are turned under or incorporated into the soil while green, or soon after flowering, in order to enrich the soil. In recent years however, the term has been used more loosely, and green manure may sometimes refer to plants or plant vegetation which may be applied as a mulch to the soil, either slashed and fresh or after the plant has dried out.
As long ago as 1927 Pieters, in his comprehensive treatment of green manures, stated that "Green manuring is the practice of enriching the soil by turning under undecomposed plant material (except crop residues) either in place or brought from a distance." He further stated "A cover crop is one planted for the purpose of covering and protecting the soil." The Soil Science Society of America (1987) defined green manure as plant material incorporated into the soil while green or at maturity, for soil improvement.
Cover crops are any crops grown to produce soil cover, regardless of whether they are later incorporated. They are used to cover and protect the soil surface, although they may be turned under as green manures. Further, the term cover crop also refers to crops grown between orchard trees or on fields between cropping seasons to protect the land from leaching and erosion (Martin 1975). Diver and Sullivan (1992) wrote: "Any field or forage crop grown to provide soil cover is a "cover crop." Since a crop grown as a cover crop may later be soil-incorporated as a green manure, the two practices are often referred to interchangeably.
- H David Thurston
Green Manure Crops
Using Green Manures
Green Manure Cover Crop Data Base
Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures
Green Manure Cover Crops For Minnesota
Cover and Green Manure Crop Benefits to Soil Quality
Cover Crops and Green Manure Crops
GREEN MANURES AND COVER CROPS
Increase Organic Matter with Green Manure and Cover Crops
Green Manure Cover Crops
CROPS AND LEGUMES
Natural Weed Control via allelopathic chemicals in some crops
Weed Suppressing Cover Crops
Some crops can be use to smother weeds such as this red clover that I no-tilled RR soybeans into.
Red clover can be difficult to kill with glyphosate alone, normally it's recommended to use both roundup and 2-4D prior to planting in soybeans .
Red clover as a cover crop
Management of Red Clover as a Cover Crop
Corn would be more conducive to no-tilling into clover because 2-4D can be sprayed on the clover after the corn has emerged. The red clover did completely suffocate weeds and the fact I did not till the soil meant new weeds were less likely to germinate.
Rye is perfect to no-till soys into and in no way hampered the growth or germination of the soys but do to the allelopathic (production of substances toxic to weeds) effects of rye, weeds were not a problem at least early on.
The rye is better at protecting the soys as deer hesitate to stick there noses into the sharp awns on the rye seed heads. If one can broadcast rye into the standing soybeans just ahead of leaf drop then the process can be repeated yearly.
Because rye is a nitrogen scavenger (unlike wheat) it can get by with N left in the soil from the previous years soybean roots decomposing in the soil.
I'll check this plot next week to see if another (perhaps heavier) does if gly is needed to supress the clover? I'm concerned that once the clover does die that deer will just wipe out the beans but time will tell....
Weed Control With Winter Rye
Brassicas including the forage radish have very strong allelopathic chemicals that can provide up to 85% weed control, so a rotation of brassicas, red clover and rye can be very effective in lowering or eliminating the need for herbicides.rye residue reduced the emergence of common ragweed by 43%, green foxtail by 80%, redroot pigweed by 95%, and common purslane (Portulaca olearacea L.) by 100%.
This link is very informative and helpful in understanding our soils
The Living Soil
THE SOIL SCIENTIST
Sustainable Soil Management
Building Fertile Soil
Annual clovers are most often used as cover crops and summer food sources and they are capable of fixing 40-100#'s of nitrogen per acre as well as providing a source of high quality forage.
The following are a few commonly planted annual clovers, pictures and planting information to assist landowners in deciding which might have an application in their habitat programs.
Arrowleaf Clover Trifolium vesiculosum
ARROWLEAF CLOVER Planting Guide
Arrowleaf Clover Info
Arrowleaf Clover seed source
Arrowleaf Clover seed source
Berseem Clover Trifolium alexandrinumArrowleaf clover is a cool-season annual. Seedlings are somewhat slow-growing, delicate, and sensitive to drought. Each leaf, as is typical for clovers, has three leaflets. Each leaflet is normally arrow-shaped with a large white "V" mark. Leaves and stems are generally smooth although sparse short hairs are sometimes noticeable. Arrowleaf clover seeds are about half the size of alfalfa seed and twice the size of white clover seed.
About Berseem Clover
All about Berseem
SARE Berseem report
Berseem Clover seed source
Crimson CloverTrifolium incarnatumBerseem clover is a winter annual legume with oblong leaflets and hollow stems. It grows upright and produces yellowish-white flowers. The plants may grow as tall as 18 to 30 inches. Bigbee is selected for its superior quality, rapid fall growth, and winter hardiness. Because of its winter hardiness, Bigbee has about the same range of adaption as arrowleaf and crimson clovers. Mature Bigbee plants hold their seeds well and produce adequate hard seeds for reseeding stands. This is not true with unselected berseem clover; unselected berseem clovers are nonreseeding.
Crimson Clover Cover Crop
Crimson Clover info
SARE Crimson Clover
Crimson Clover Seed Source
Persian Clover Trifolium resupinatum
About Persian CloverPersian clover is native to Asia Minor and is widely used in Eastern Mediterranean countries and India as a winter annual. It was found in Louisiana in 1928 and is now established - either through planting or natural reseeding - from Texas eastward to the Atlantic. It is adapted to heavy y, moist soils but is not tolerant to low winter temperatures. Under cultivation it is seeded in the fall and grows rapidly during late winter and early spring. Stems are soft and hollow, reaching to 3 feet under the best growing conditions. Seed pods are inflated and light in weight, subject to distribution by wind or floating oii water. Natural reseeding occurs generally. Although used mainly for grazing, Persian clover is also excellent for silage and hay.
List of Oregon Clover seed source One of these carries Persian
Rose Clover Trifolium hirtum
About Overton18 Rose Clover
Facts about Rose Clover
More about Rose Clover
Rose Clover in OK
Rose clover seed source also carry Strawberry and Subterranean Clover seed
Links:Rose clover, a cool-season annual forage legume, is somewhat new to Oklahoma. Most varieties of rose clover that have been available in the past were earlier in maturity than crimson clover and produced very little forage. Drought tolerance of rose clover, however, is typically greater than crimson or arrowleaf clover. In fact, rose clover will not tolerate wet or poorly drained soils but is somewhat tolerant of slightly alkaline soils and low fertility.
Compare Cover Crops
Midwest Cover Crop Council
Oregon Clover Seed
Ampac Clover types
The True clovers