Mark Schleisman plants cover crops on 4,500 acres of his corn, soy, seed corn, and popcorn acres near Lake City, Iowa. He also raises hogs and has a cow-calf operation which graze the cover crop. In addition to his own farm, Mark custom seeds cover crops for neighbors. Last week we chatted with Mark about how he gets cover crops planted on so many acres.
Seeding with ground rig, aerial application versus drilling: Mark notes that while drilling cover crops results in a higher germination rate than overseeding, he overseeds [plants into a standing, near maturity crop] some of his acres because planting earlier allows for better fall establishment on late harvested crop acres. He estimates that overseeding is typically 30-50% less expensive than aerial application.
Overseeding timing: Mark will start overseeding into his standing corn and beans once leaf drop begins and he can see sunlight reaching the soil-- about 30% sunlight into the canopy. However, Mark warns that overseeding certain varieties (especially oats) much earlier than August 15 over a soybean crop could potentially cause issues with green cover crop material in combine heads at harvest. Corn isn’t typically an issue due to the height of the combine head.
He also advises to not wait too long to overseed into corn, because the high clearance sprayer used for planting could disturb or knock off corn ears. “If ears have started tipping you probably don’t want the tires of the ground rig knocking them off,” Mark says.
Selecting cover crop varieties: Mark’s grazing needs and soil conditions guide which cover crops he plants. He plants the following in the fall.
• For fall grazing, oats
• For spring grazing, rye
• For fall and spring grazing, an oat and rye mix
He reserves planting more expensive seed like radish for fields with higher rates of compaction, like his seed corn fields.