Cover Crops ... Food & Soil Improvement

Tree Spud

5 year old buck +
With all of the good discussion on cover crops and soil improvement, unfortunately that info is scattered over many different threads. Thought starting a thread focusing on soil development which also supports food source would be a good spot to share ideas & experiences.

We have some great contributors such as Crimson n Camo, SD51555 , Wild Thing, & Buckhunter 10. Maybe they can move some of their content over here?

Lickcreek was an early on adopter, if you have not seen his thread, I saved it from the old ODM site and posted it here ...
Cereal Grains & Cover Crops

Crimson & Camo has a great thread that started many of u on this new journey...
Throw n Mow Method

I have 2 primary ag fields totally about ~25 acres. My central field consists of loamy sand soils. My north field was a combination of loamy sand & loamy silt but now has a ~3-4" cover of peat and muck. The peat and muck was soil from a pond we dug. About 10,100 yards of this was spread over my north field.

About 10-11 acres on my property is for food plots which I am now incorporating more cover crop plants. I have always planted cereal rye & red clover in the fall. This spring I have added to my soy beans ... grain sorghum, a variety of millets, red top forage sorghum, & berseem clover. In mid July I will over seed with turnips, radishes, crimson, & ladino clover. In the fall it will be WR, crimson clover, peas, & hairy vetch. So as not to draw the ire from SD51555, I even threw in some chicory. :emoji_wink:

On the other 14 acres, I converted that to all switch grass 6 years ago. Didn't have the means back then to plant that much ground, but I wanted to increase the OM and thatch in the soil. My next project will be to convert this ground to cover crop rotation.

So far what I have learned from others is to develop the nutrient/microbe/biology activity to build soil you need the following groups:
- Legumes
- Cool & warm season grasses
- Forbs
A good guide for the above plant & seed type is ... Cool Season Cover Crop Species and Planting Dates and Techniques

Hopefully we can build this to be a good resource thread!
 
Last edited:

SD51555

5 year old buck +
For me, great learnings we’re born out of failure. When I took the sprayer and fertilizer out of the toolbox, things started changing. I quit worrying about N-P-K, and started focusing on carbon, oxygen, humus, moisture, soil temp, and whether rain hits the soil, or hits residue first and then trickles in peacefully.

That being said, my land is relatively new to this kind of management. I’ve had it six years, and my oldest unbroken perennial plots are now in their third growing season. And they keep changing, and showing me new things. I have challenges I’m still working through today. Even so, spraying and fertilizing, and tilling are 100% off the table for these plots. I know what they do to the soil. It sets me back to year zero, and year zero problems.

I’ve got two problems right now that I’m watching and doing a lot of thinking about. One is burdock. I keep a research plot of sorts in my yard at camp. It’s maybe a tenth of an acre. I’ve got a concerning amount of burdock out there, but it’s not taking over. Will it? I don’t know. I gambling that it won’t because I’m not going to break open the life loop and invite a death response. I’m certain the burdock would thrive if I did that.

32f39d7830e909eb77b3837ec541c536.jpg


I decided to try winter wheat last fall instead of rye in my throw and mow. I was following a legendary stand of rye and was confident I had reached a point I could transition to wheat. I’m a little worried I may have let the quackgrass get a toe in the system again. We’ll see. I know I’ve got a good amount of wheat in there, but there is more stuff I’m not sure of.

52e84a43a720ba3cc0cf34fb36d5378b.jpg


I’ve got some ideas to nudge the system forward when it comes time to do the annual throw and mow. One is to go back to rye. The other is to add spring forage barley in the fall. But I’m not going to kill, and I’m not starting over. I have to think the burdock is doing something to fill a niche and it will go away. There is no burdock anywhere on my property except where there was disturbance. And that’s an important observation.

If the burdock gets worse next year, I’ll do a quick shot of calcitic lime to try driving up the calcium.


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SD51555

5 year old buck +
Another head scratcher I've got...

I cannot grow winter rye and winter wheat on some pond spoils from 2019. I can grow clover on that to grace the cover of any food plot magazine, but I have tried three years in a row to throw and mow rye and winter wheat into it. To this day, it hasn't worked. The mystery gets deeper from there.

Last fall, I also added spring wheat to my throw and mow on these spots. I wanted an alternative to oats for fall tonnage. My thought was the spring wheat would be smaller and heavier, and have a chance at getting down to the soil. It did, and I had a marvelous stand of spring wheat in my clover in the fall. Now, I was about three weeks early and it headed out and dropped it's leaves. The deer still ate it.

One Idea I have, is that the deer are grazing that plot extremely hard in the fall, to the point the rye and wheat cannot recover. I get heavy digging in that plot in the winter. They come back and dig for clover. So, a few ideas for this year: I'm switching away from spring wheat, and moving to spring awnless triticale for my cereal for the throw and mow in August. I'm pushing back 3 weeks from when I did it last season, and i'm going with an improved awnless hi-tonnage spring cereal. Then, I'm going to plant that same triticale again in the spring. I'm not even going to plant a winter cereal out there this fall.

More stuff will be added, but I've got a strict focus on that carbon, because if i don't, I'll have sedge back in a hurry.
 
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Tree Spud

5 year old buck +
Another head scratcher I've got...

I cannot grow winter rye and winter wheat on some pond spoils from 2019. I can grow clover on that to grace the cover of any food plot magazine, but I have tried three years in a row to throw and mow rye and winter wheat into it. To this day, it hasn't worked. The mystery gets deeper from there.

Last fall, I also added spring wheat to my throw and mow on these spots. I wanted an alternative to oats for fall tonnage. My thought was the spring wheat would be smaller and heavier, and have a chance at getting down to the soil. It did, and I had a marvelous stand of spring wheat in my clover in the fall. Now, I was about three weeks early and it headed out and dropped it's leaves. The deer still ate it.

One Idea I have, is that the deer are grazing that plot extremely hard in the fall, to the point the rye and wheat cannot recover. I get heavy digging in that plot in the winter. They come back and dig for clover. So, a few ideas for this year: I'm switching away from spring wheat, and moving to spring awnless triticale for my cereal for the throw and mow in August. I'm pushing back 3 weeks from when I did it last season, and i'm going with an improved awnless hi-tonnage spring cereal. Then, I'm going to plant that same triticale again in the spring. I'm not even going to plant a winter cereal out there this fall.

More stuff will be added, but I've got a strict focus on that carbon, because if i don't, I'll have sedge back in a hurry.

Interesting that the WR & WW did not regen. Would think that would be a no brainer.
 

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
Another head scratcher I've got...

I cannot grow winter rye and winter wheat on some pond spoils from 2019. I can grow clover on that to grace the cover of any food plot magazine, but I have tried three years in a row to throw and mow rye and winter wheat into it. To this day, it hasn't worked. The mystery gets deeper from there.

Last fall, I also added spring wheat to my throw and mow on these spots. I wanted an alternative to oats for fall tonnage. My thought was the spring wheat would be smaller and heavier, and have a chance at getting down to the soil. It did, and I had a marvelous stand of spring wheat in my clover in the fall. Now, I was about three weeks early and it headed out and dropped it's leaves. The deer still ate it.

One Idea I have, is that the deer are grazing that plot extremely hard in the fall, to the point the rye and wheat cannot recover. I get heavy digging in that plot in the winter. They come back and dig for clover. So, a few ideas for this year: I'm switching away from spring wheat, and moving to spring awnless triticale for my cereal for the throw and mow in August. I'm pushing back 3 weeks from when I did it last season, and i'm going with an improved awnless hi-tonnage spring cereal. Then, I'm going to plant that same triticale again in the spring. I'm not even going to plant a winter cereal out there this fall.

More stuff will be added, but I've got a strict focus on that carbon, because if i don't, I'll have sedge back in a hurry.


That shows why exclusion cages can be and important tool to understanding what is going on. I had so many crops seem to fail in my early years, especially candy crops like soybeans. Others in our LLC thought I was doing something wrong in how I was planting beans. Some said it was too deep, some said the timing was wrong, The list goes on. I put up a gallagher-style efence arund a portion of one the the plots. The difference inside and outside the fence was dramatic. The issue was clearly our deer population. and everyone got it.

A few exclusion cages are great when planting mixes especially. You can see if there is some problem with the soil or weather conditions or such and exclude browsing pressure from consideration.

"Pond Spoils" gets my attention if it turns out to be a soil issue. That seems to be one differentiator from your other plots.

Thanks,

Jack
 

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
With all of the good discussion on cover crops and soil improvement, unfortunately that info is scattered over many different threads. Thought starting a thread focusing on soil development which also supports food source would be a good spot to share ideas & experiences.

We have some great contributors such as Crimson n Camo, SD51555 , Wild Thing, & Buckhunter 10. Maybe they can move some of their content over here?

Lickcreek was an early on adopter, if you have not seen his thread, I saved it from the old ODM site and posted it here ...
Cereal Grains & Cover Crops

Crimson & Camo has a great thread that started many of u on this new journey...
Throw n Mow Method

I have 2 primary ag fields totally about ~25 acres. My central field consists of loamy sand soils. My north field was a combination of loamy sand & loamy silt but now has a ~3-4" cover of peat and muck. The peat and muck was soil from a pond we dug. About 10,100 yards of this was spread over my north field.

About 10-11 acres on my property is for food plots which I am now incorporating more cover crop plants. I have always planted cereal rye & red clover in the fall. This spring I have added to my soy beans ... grain sorghum, a variety of millets, red top forage sorghum, & berseem clover. In mid July I will over seed with turnips, radishes, crimson, & ladino clover. In the fall it will be WR, crimson clover, peas, & hairy vetch. So as not to draw the ire from SD51555, I even threw in some chicory. :emoji_wink:

On the other 14 acres, I converted that to all switch grass 6 years ago. Didn't have the means back then to plant that much ground, but I wanted to increase the OM and thatch in the soil. My next project will be to convert this ground to cover crop rotation.

So far what I have learned from others is to develop the nutrient/microbe/biology activity to build soil you need the following groups:
- Legumes
- Cool & warm season grasses
- Forbs
A good guide for the above plant & seed type is ... Cool Season Cover Crop Species and Planting Dates and Techniques

Hopefully we can build this to be a good resource thread!

You mention Crimson n Camo's T&M thread. Before going there, new folks should understand the underlying concepts of no-till. I know of no better resource that Ray the Soil Guy. Here is a link to his page of videos: https://vimeo.com/channels/raythesoilguy. I suggest folks watch the soil infiltration short video first. It is short and to the point. Then watch many of the others. Most are focused at commercial farmers on large scale with big equipment, but the underlying concepts of why those techniques work are the same. Crimson n Camo's T&M thread shows how to applies these concepts to the small equipment many folks have available for food plots.

As much as we can learn from commercial farming, and it is a lot, there are big differences with deer management and most advantage us at using many of these techniques. Here are a few:

- Farmers Harvest, we don't
This is huge. Harvesting removes much of the nutrients from the soil. This means to continue to be productive on that soil, farmers must replace those nutrients. Second, many crops are harvested by mechanical harvesting equipment which often limits farmers to planting monocultures. For food plots, the only nutrients removed intentionally are by the wildlife that feed in it, but they return much of the nutrients in droppings. We can plant mixes of complementary crops as diversity supports both wildlife and soil health. In fact what is a "cover crop" to a farmer, is often a primary food plot planting for deer and other wildlife.

- Farmers are driven by yield, we are not
In order to stay a float, farmers must make a profit, This means the price they get for their crop must exceed their cost for planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and maintaining all the mechanical equipment. This requires making crop-efficient use of land. Beyond selecting crops based on economics, they need to maximize their crop on a per/acre basis. That generally means anything that grow in a field other than what the farmer planted is a weed by definition to the farmer. We don't have this limitation when planting for deer. Many of the native plants in our seed banks that will be in our food plots are as good or better deer food as what we plant. While there are some problematic weeds that may need to be dealt with in certain circumstances, we can be much more tolerant than farmers.

Those are the two biggest deviations between food plotting and farming when it comes to thinking about how to achieve our objectives.

Thanks,

Jack
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
That shows why exclusion cages can be and important tool to understanding what is going on. I had so many crops seem to fail in my early years, especially candy crops like soybeans. Others in our LLC thought I was doing something wrong in how I was planting beans. Some said it was too deep, some said the timing was wrong, The list goes on. I put up a gallagher-style efence arund a portion of one the the plots. The difference inside and outside the fence was dramatic. The issue was clearly our deer population. and everyone got it.

A few exclusion cages are great when planting mixes especially. You can see if there is some problem with the soil or weather conditions or such and exclude browsing pressure from consideration.

"Pond Spoils" gets my attention if it turns out to be a soil issue. That seems to be one differentiator from your other plots.

Thanks,

Jack
It could be a lack of oxygen too. It's two feet of solid paste. I'm kicking around the idea of adding more calcium there too.
 

Foggy47

5 year old buck +
I played golf yesterday.....and thought I would share an observation regarding tillage and throw and mow on the golf course. Here in northern MN we get allot of winter kill each year in the fairways and on the greens. These soils are some of the heaviest fertilized and mowed soils on earth. They have tried allot of throw and mow....and in many areas this works.....and in others....not so much.

Lots of names for the dead spots....like "fairy rings" and others. The greens keepers always have their work cut out......and this year they are employing what I have heard termed as a "slicer" They use this machine on the greens and the fairways.....and simply cut a 1/4 deep ? slice in the turf and overseed it. They tend to criss cross these slices at about a 2" section on the greens. The sliced areas quickly grow grass again.....and soon it fills-in and VIOLA the grass is back like new. Kinda like a no-till drill......only a slicer....I do not think the machine drops seeds. I plan to talk with the greenskeeper and look for more details on the operation of this machine. Its more like a minimum till....it is sure working for them.

These are two pics from the fairways.....I intended to take pics von the greens....but forgot. You can imagine they need to keep the course playable while making repairs to the surfaces here. This is extremely difficult without "tillage" and seeing it work on the greens is especially impressive.
 

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Tree Spud

5 year old buck +
I pulled this video from Crimson & Camo's TnM thread. The light bulb started to come on ... OM/thatch, moisture retention, soil biology, nitrogen building, weed suppression, reducing inputs ... good stuff to get a better understanding of cover crop value.

[
 

Telemark

5 year old buck +
I’ve got two problems right now that I’m watching and doing a lot of thinking about. One is burdock

Do you know what kind of burdock you have? I used to eat burdock root all the time.
 

bjseiler

5 year old buck +
Check t-mobile home internet. Especially if you are near the interstate. $50/month unlimited.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
Do you know what kind of burdock you have? I used to eat burdock root all the time.
Not sure.

I talked myself into going and getting some lime and gypsum to get a jump start on this. I've got patches of horsetail that need liming too. Probably gonna be hauling up lime all through June, or until gas hits $12/gallon. Then I'm gonna have to alternate weekends.
 

Ben.MN/WI

5 year old buck +
I have some world class burdock patches and they can certainly out compete most other vegetation. These are on woods edges that haven't been disturbed and they persist, but don't seem to really spread.
 

bigboreblr

5 year old buck +
Froggy,

Slit seeders do put seed in the soil. 2 major problems with growing grass. Compaction and thatch. The slits fix both. They lossen up the top layer of soil. They also lift the thatch above the seed, so you get seed to soil contact. Farmers / food plotters equivalent to a slit seed is a spiked wheel, or philips rotatry harrow. Kelley makes them. Sometimes called a fluffing harrow too. Our problem with slit seeder is rocks. IT would make a mess of the top layer of soil and the tool would not last long. I've debated hot rodding a rototiller by meoving most of the flat sections of the tiller tines.

SD51555,

I'd grab numerous samples and get a detailed soil analysis. Any noticeable attributes to the pond? Rye can grow on virtually anything, so my guess its either too wet for a period of time, or you have something in the soil, like a high amount of a mineral. Any general water issues in the area, high tannin, pH, mineral leaching? The fine silt in a pond can cause permeability problems, so it stays wet longer. Any pics of the dying cereal grains. Sometimes the color of the dead grass shows some insight on what happened. Clover is about the best common food plot seed for flood resistance.

The pond muck might have to be stirred into the existing soil a bit better. The soil might need to be turned by a plow, or even a subsoiler. Even leavng the soil wavy with a disc cultivator and hand spreading the rye might help with drainage. Compacting the soil might be doing more harm than good.

The green cover company has some complex blends of seeds. Maybe that mess of seed might show what else might work other than clover.
 

Foggy47

5 year old buck +
Froggy,

Slit seeders do put seed in the soil. 2 major problems with growing grass. Compaction and thatch. The slits fix both. They lossen up the top layer of soil. They also lift the thatch above the seed, so you get seed to soil contact. Farmers / food plotters equivalent to a slit seed is a spiked wheel, or philips rotatry harrow. Kelley makes them. Sometimes called a fluffing harrow too. Our problem with slit seeder is rocks. IT would make a mess of the top layer of soil and the tool would not last long. I've debated hot rodding a rototiller by meoving most of the flat sections of the tiller tines.

SD51555,

I'd grab numerous samples and get a detailed soil analysis. Any noticeable attributes to the pond? Rye can grow on virtually anything, so my guess its either too wet for a period of time, or you have something in the soil, like a high amount of a mineral. Any general water issues in the area, high tannin, pH, mineral leaching? The fine silt in a pond can cause permeability problems, so it stays wet longer. Any pics of the dying cereal grains. Sometimes the color of the dead grass shows some insight on what happened. Clover is about the best common food plot seed for flood resistance.

The pond muck might have to be stirred into the existing soil a bit better. The soil might need to be turned by a plow, or even a subsoiler. Even leavng the soil wavy with a disc cultivator and hand spreading the rye might help with drainage. Compacting the soil might be doing more harm than good.

The green cover company has some complex blends of seeds. Maybe that mess of seed might show what else might work other than clover.
Good réponse on that slitting action. I do think there is something here for us to learn for minimum / no-till food plotting. Sometimes just a slit in the ground provides the means for those seeds to take hold. I have some grass areas in my yard that are basically dead from piling snow on it over winter.....happens every year. Been thinking I need a slitter to get the seeds established in my yard too. I do think that tiller idea with the flat sections removed may be a good tool for this purpose. Anything to disturb or "slice" the turf just a bit allows those seeds to establish. The golf course wants the means to get the seed going while allowing (so-so) play on the current surfaces. Interesting to me.

In "big ag" I think they call this "vertical tillage"....and simply run their disk blades straight to make just a little disturbance (along with other minimum tilage techniques) in order to leave the thatch in place.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
SD51555,

I'd grab numerous samples and get a detailed soil analysis. Any noticeable attributes to the pond?
I sampled it right away. I pulled cores at 30" as that was about the halfway point of what came out of the ground. It's loaded with nutrients, I think it just needs air, calcium, and spring planted cereals to get the fiber through that smear layer. Given the spring wheat did fine last fall, I think it's a hard grazing issue.

1654651963835.png
 

Foggy47

5 year old buck +
EVERYTHING you always wanted to know about cereal Rye.....but were afraid to ask. Grin. GOOD READ!

 

Foggy47

5 year old buck +
Been lots of talk about methods to terminate rye. This is a good article on the timing and how to do this correctly. SD had better read and heed. Just sayin'.

I rest my case. ;)

 
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Skeeter

5 year old buck +
For me, great learnings we’re born out of failure. When I took the sprayer and fertilizer out of the toolbox, things started changing. I quit worrying about N-P-K, and started focusing on carbon, oxygen, humus, moisture, soil temp, and whether rain hits the soil, or hits residue first and then trickles in peacefully.

That being said, my land is relatively new to this kind of management. I’ve had it six years, and my oldest unbroken perennial plots are now in their third growing season. And they keep changing, and showing me new things. I have challenges I’m still working through today. Even so, spraying and fertilizing, and tilling are 100% off the table for these plots. I know what they do to the soil. It sets me back to year zero, and year zero problems.

I’ve got two problems right now that I’m watching and doing a lot of thinking about. One is burdock. I keep a research plot of sorts in my yard at camp. It’s maybe a tenth of an acre. I’ve got a concerning amount of burdock out there, but it’s not taking over. Will it? I don’t know. I gambling that it won’t because I’m not going to break open the life loop and invite a death response. I’m certain the burdock would thrive if I did that.

32f39d7830e909eb77b3837ec541c536.jpg


I decided to try winter wheat last fall instead of rye in my throw and mow. I was following a legendary stand of rye and was confident I had reached a point I could transition to wheat. I’m a little worried I may have let the quackgrass get a toe in the system again. We’ll see. I know I’ve got a good amount of wheat in there, but there is more stuff I’m not sure of.

52e84a43a720ba3cc0cf34fb36d5378b.jpg


I’ve got some ideas to nudge the system forward when it comes time to do the annual throw and mow. One is to go back to rye. The other is to add spring forage barley in the fall. But I’m not going to kill, and I’m not starting over. I have to think the burdock is doing something to fill a niche and it will go away. There is no burdock anywhere on my property except where there was disturbance. And that’s an important observation.

If the burdock gets worse next year, I’ll do a quick shot of calcitic lime to try driving up the calcium.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
SD, in her book, For the Love of Soil, Nicole Masters talks about taking plant tissue samples of undesirable plants to find out what they are unusually high in. Then mixing up a foliar spray that is high in that mineral and applying to the undesirable plant. Terminates the plant without using herbicides. Does not apply to the nutrients nitrogen and I believe sodium, but am going from memory, so read her book to get exact details, there could be a couple other minerals/nutrients that this method doesn't work with either.

Another takeaway from her book, if you choose to use herbicides, or any time that you spray something, use the opportunity to add some carbon to the system. Could be humic acid, fulvic acid, vermi extract, or some other source of carbon. Allows for better uptake of what you are spraying. Again, do a little reading on the subject because sometimes unexpected things happen, like possible clumping in the mixture if mixing citric and humic acid.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
That'd be one way to do it. I think there are easier and less expensive ways. A couple nights ago I had found the weed-indicator articles I had lost. I'm a big fan of letting the weeds be your soil test. If something is thriving, there is usually a single cause for that one species to be dominating, especially if it's after we've done something.

www.canr.msu.edu/news/weeds_are_an_indicator_of_a_soils_health

www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/soil-types-and-weeds.htm/?print=1&loc=top

Sometimes you've got to make some leaps on your own. I did a lot of terraforming to raise my plots up with spoils from vernal pool and pond building. I've still got wet soil weeds like sedge, but it's really not wet anymore. Another way to describe wet, is lack of oxygen (this is where I'm leaping). I think I'm dealing with a lack of oxygen due to compaction from equipment and a tight clay soil composition.

The way to cure a heavy clay soil, a low oxygen soil (above water), and a low pH soil -- calcitic lime. If the pH is already good, gypsum. That's really the only way that I think would be durable.
 
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