To maximise the benefit of the cover crop within the farm rotation, the following areas need to be considered before establishing the following crop.
- TARGET DRILLING DATE
Have a target drilling date on which to base your planning and operations.
- DESTRUCTION OF COVER CROP
If the cover crop has not been destroyed by frost or grazed, you will need to consider the soil type and density of the cover to determine when to spray off the cover in order to allow time for the soil surface to dry to aid drilling. This could be up to 8 weeks on heavy soils with a dense cover crop.
Assess the slug pest pressure before crop establishment, treat if necessary.
- CROP NUTRITION
The nutrient requirement of the following crop may differ to normal practice in respect to application timing and amount used depending on the cover crop species within the mix.
The C:N ratio of a particular mix will determine the time it will take and how much nitrogen will be required from the soil N reserve to decompose the cover crop residue and release nutrients to the following crop. This is because the soil micro-organisms require a C:N ratio of 24:1 to work efficiently and maintain a healthy balanced soil.
Cover crop residues with a higher C:N ratio will require more N from the soil and therefore less is initially available to the following crop, inhibiting growth.
Low C:N ratio residues including N fixing species will release excess N quickly boosting early crop growth and reducing the overall N requirement.
The target is to maintain a crop residue covering the soil surface with a C:N ratio of between 25 and 30 to help maintain a healthy living soil that will release nutrients at a uniform rate
Whichever type of drill you use to establish the next crop, the aim is to move only the minimum amount of soil required to create good seed to soil contact.
Excessive soil movement will stimulate unwanted weed germination and undo some of the benefits gained from the cover crop.
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