In this episode of the Corn School, Real Agriculture resident agronomist Peter Johnson goes cover crop crazy.
Standing in a residue-covered cornfield, Johnson sounds off on growers who insist on chopping corn stalks: “What a labour intensive, fuel expensive, ridiculous thing to do – it makes no sense whatsoever.”
What makes better sense for growers, says Johnson, is planting cover crops in corn. He notes that over the course of his career, researchers have evaluated the benefits of cover crops at least three times and he still wonders if they will actually work.
But as Johnson stomps through a test plot of annual ryegrass planted into corn stalks, the wily wheat veteran admits that growers may be on to something. “Look at the structure this annual ryegrass puts into the soil,” implores a fired up Johnson as he inspects the ryegrass root mass. “This is so much better than the area where we don’t have any of these roots. If that’s not doing good for next year’s soybean crop, by golly, I don’t know what is.”
When it comes to cover crops, there’s still plenty of work to do, concludes Johnson. “We need to talk about weed control and herbicide issues but this is something that may change agriculture.”