A nine-year study of cereal rye as a cover crop shows it can lead to higher soybean and corn yields. Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa compared strips of fields planted with cereal rye in the fall and those without it.
The rye helps keep nutrients and soil in place, and also keeps down some weeds. Plus, in areas with multiple years of the cover crop, some farmers reported harvesting slightly more soybeans and corn than in areas without it. Liz Juchems of Iowa Learning Farms says the only downside is that farmers are dropping out of the study.
“Once we got past the first couple of years of using cover crops, some of our producers said, ‘I don’t need to be convinced anymore, I’m going to use cover crops. I don’t want to have these no cover strips left in my field’,” Juchems says.
She says the yield bump is just a bonus on top of the rye’s environmental benefits.
“It will go dormant during this time of the year and once it warms up in the spring, it’ll start growing again. So it helps us bridge those brown months when we don’t have corn or soybeans growing in our fields, so it can be retaining the soil, and then the nutrients through the plant uptake,” Juchems explains.
Juchems says these farmers will become role models and resources for their neighbors who are still weighing whether to invest in cover crops.
(story courtesy of Radio Iowa)