Seminole Crop E News

Agricultural News for Farmers and Agribusiness in SW Georgia

Cover Crop Termination

Posted by romeethredge on April 4, 2013

Cover Crop Termination

Here are some good thoughts from Dr. Scott Tubbs, UGA Scientist.

Because of a relatively cool winter extending later into the year than usual, it is likely that cover crops are not as robust at this time as they normally would be.  Therefore, it is tempting to delay termination of cover crops to allow more time for biomass production.  The benefits of a cover crop in-season include slow release of nutrients as residue decomposes, soil moisture retention since the residues can act like sponges and hold more moisture/prevent some runoff in large rain events and also slow evaporation from the upper soil profile since direct sunlight to the soil surface is greatly reduced.  Thus, waiting for additional growth can be beneficial to maximize effectiveness of the cover.

On the flip side, cover crops can be a detriment in early spring heading into planting season for some of the same reasons as above – shading of the soil surface does not allow rapid increase of soil temperatures and could delay planting when we have late cool snaps (like we have been having), and cover crops also deplete soil moisture when they are actively growing.  Therefore, if they are terminated too late, there may not be adequate soil moisture for planting the peanut crop in dryland situations.  Since there have been abundant rainfall events over the last few months in most peanut producing areas, the soil profile is not likely to be bone dry from cover crops removing the water.  But if cover crops are allowed to actively grow for too long prior to termination, and there are no subsequent rainfall events to replenish the soil profile, it could generate difficult planting conditions.  Keep these things in mind when determining the best timeframe for termination of cover crops this spring.

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