Calaway Soil and Water Conservation District
On our farm, we grow corn, soybeans with secondary crops of Japanese millet, cereal rye, oats and winter hairy vetch for seed production.
Soil Health Practices
The farm has been no-till for 30 years. Multi-species cover crops have been added to further build soil health and prevent the loss of topsoil on the claypan soils of central Missouri. Multiple cover crops are used because each species has its own important footprint.
I started using vetch nine years ago to grow nitrogen for milo but went right into seed production. I was still playing with vetch for a cover crop until November 2012, when I went to a field day at Terry Taylor’s farm in Illinois and saw the improvements he made in eight years. I told myself I had to do this. The fall of 2013, I seeded the whole farm to rye or rye and vetch for cover crops with other things added to the mix, and I continue to do this.
About 20 percent of the farm is dedicated to growing cover crop seed, including 100 acres of Japanese millet and about 100 acres of cereal rye and hairy vetch. Growing hairy vetch and cereal rye together often results in higher yields. Rye is a great nitrogen scavenger, but by itself probably won’t give back nitrogen to the cash crop for two years. Hairy vetch is a legume with a low carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, and the nitrogen because available much more quickly.
I have no-tilled into failed wheat a few times in the past and never had success planting corn into a green growing crop. I wouldn’t do it again, but if I add some fertilizer at planting time, I have made most of my problems go away. Use multiple sprayer passes to control weeds and cover crops.
The weather is the biggest challenge, and if you can work your way around it, most other things work out.