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My cover crop plan.

 
Posts: 97
Location: South Mississippi
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Hi, just recently joined and have read some posts. I see many here with helpful ideas so I'm wanting to see what y'all think about my plans. I just started a new farming business. I had a test garden (half an acre). This past spring and summer I had main crop fields (3-one acre plots) sown in iron clay peas for a cover crop. I tilled them in and planted fall crops in 1 of the 3 fields. I'm planting fixation clover (balansa) in the other 2. I wanted to only plant clover in one but weather didn't cooperate for fall crop planting in it. So my plan of 1field in clover and rotating crops has been modified but at least it's in legumes. I'm thinking of putting ladino clover between the rows as it can handle more traffic than most other cloves. So any tips, advice,  questions.  Thanks y'all btw :)
 
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Is you soil depleted of Nitrogen? if it isn't going for all Nitrogen fixers, while not a bad thing, might be going a bit overboard with mono cropping. (yes you can monocrop cover crop plants)

I would try a mix of cover crops with only one of those plants being a clover. Try Rape, buckwheat, field peas, Lucerne, 7 top turnip, daikon, and other cover crop plants in a blend, you will get more soil improvement than just Nitrogen that way.

Redhawk
 
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I would plant a mix of cover crops, often, one advantage of cover crops is they compete well in suboptimal conditions. You might also consider using cover crops to convert to feed or silage if you are raising poultry as a part of your garden business. You can plant millet and the like to bring down your feed bill or just grass if you want to pasture them.
 
C Rogers
Posts: 97
Location: South Mississippi
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Is you soil depleted of Nitrogen? if it isn't going for all Nitrogen fixers, while not a bad thing, might be going a bit overboard with mono cropping. (yes you can monocrop cover crop plants)

I would try a mix of cover crops with only one of those plants being a clover. Try Rape, buckwheat, field peas, Lucerne, 7 top turnip, daikon, and other cover crop plants in a blend, you will get more soil improvement than just Nitrogen that way.

Redhawk


Yes here in south Mississippi it's hot n humid so nitrogen turns to gas quite readily. I didn't mention my tractor but it's a 1950 Farmall Super A. I have a 6' heavy disk (18"disks), a two bottom turning plow and a 6' bushhog. With this equipment too tall or too viney is difficult to disk even after bushhoging. My soil samples said I ONLY needed N. As P & K along with micronutrients were all high to very high. This is because of addition of composted layer chicken manure. My pH is 6.6 so I'm doing only legumes so in late spring when I disk them under I should have 3500-5000 lbs per Acre of biomass and 100-200 lbs of N p/A. I want to do buckwheat but no local seed stores have em. I'm also keeping it monoculture to prevent seed. If one seeds before the others I would have to disk them under too, destroying the reason I had the 2nd or more types of cover plants. Just finding a good N fixer and can be turned under around the time I planned to plant my heavy feeder crops was quite a challenge. I just found out balansa clover is shade tolerant. So I actually bought too much ladino clover. But I can still use it, just will save some $$$ next year as fixation is a little cheaper than ladino. Also, as time goes on and soil becomes more enriched by manure, cover crops and worm casting all incorporated into fields I will adjust and/or change cover crops according. Most, if not all cover crops will be late fall to early winter planted. You also mentioned turnips,  that 2nd field I just did plant half in turnips and soon will disk under fall planted squash and will put clover in both fields left fallow. Leaving 1 acre outta 3 not in clover (not counting between beds which will be in ladino). I also have half an acre in snow and sugar snap peas so actually I'll be almost all in legumes with a little in turnips.
 
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It seems to me you have a pretty good cover crop plan. You PH, NPK's and Micronutrients are all good, and with composted manure I would think your organic matter was pretty high, but that depends on how much manure you have, how evenly it was spread, and how long you have been doing this. If it is low in organic matter, then you might get a better bang for the buck depending upon what you grow for a cover crop.
 
C Rogers
Posts: 97
Location: South Mississippi
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Travis Johnson wrote:It seems to me you have a pretty good cover crop plan. You PH, NPK's and Micronutrients are all good, and with composted manure I would think your organic matter was pretty high, but that depends on how much manure you have, how evenly it was spread, and how long you have been doing this. If it is low in organic matter, then you might get a better bang for the buck depending upon what you grow for a cover crop.



I just started this year, I had a 2000 sq. ft. test garden to try different spacing of rows on 4' raised beds. I also have a pull type manure spreader that I use to spread the compost and vermicompost. But unfortunately my test bed was the worst spot on the farm as it was easier to say what wasn't needed than to list all that it needed. The test bed was only ok in Ca, but even that needed more as pH was 5.2. I added tons of manure compost and then it actually made, but most of my original testing was inconclusive as I didn't realize how bad soil was till after planting so many of my tests couldn't accurately show if I was crowding rows or not as even the low row # test plots were sickly till after addition of compost. My crop fields I believe were in so much better condition because they were originally pasture land for cows with mixed grass and clover in them so between the manure and clover the only issue those fields had was compaction from the cows and me driving equipment on them and the lack of organic material in the soil. This was why I planted the main crop fields in "Iron Clay Peas" this past spring-summer and disked them in this fall. I only had some issues with them because the pea vines reached over 6' in length and even bush-hogging them didn't prevent my disk from clogging from vines. I am using a clover (fixation)(balansa) that makes allot of biomass and is one of the higher producers of N. This should increase my organic matter along with added compost and vermicompost I should have my soil in great shape within 6 months. I have access to 40 tons of chicken manure and I'm planning on using 5-10 tons of that in the worm bins along with crop residue and food leftovers, so I hope my little worm friends will enjoy that. The manure spreader is same width as my tractor and can clear the 4' raised beds and depending on speed it casts manure from 4' wide to 10' wide. I plan on going slow so it only puts manure/compost on the raised beds about 2" thick. Once I get land right I'll then go faster and spread compost more lightly, but till then I'm laying it thick, and may even lower total loads put on land to just 1 load per year. Right now I'm putting compost in after each harvest (just before planting next crops). Here in south Mississippi we can actually grow crops 10 out of 12 months and even all year if plants can tolerate 1 night of freezing. We  only get 2-4 days of hard frost and usually no snow. So I actually will be able to have 3 crops on most fields per year. Some things like onions, garlic and watermelons that take over 90 days will reduce those areas to 2 crops a year but I will account for that in my crop rotation program. I am hopping all this studying and research I've been doing and asking master gardeners and ya'll here for any extra input will allow me to maximize my production in the shortest amount of time. I want to also thank ya'll for input and helping this ol' mississippi kid (kid LOL I'm half a century old LOL).
 
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A mix of covers will serve you better.  Cut it down when the first species flowers to avoid self seeding.  Covers don't have to mature fully to help your soil.  Do you get a good frost where you are?  I'm in Northwest Florida and we don't get much if any truly hard freezes so winterkill isn't an option here.  However timely mowing has kept my garden beds from being over run with volunteers.  

If soil organic matter and N are your primary concerns try Winter peas and oats.  Both are easy to kill and oats provide a lot of rootmass.  Though tillage is going to undo a lot of the good the covers provide.

Not sure your tractor could handle a notill drill but it should be possible to strip till leaving much of the cover residue in place and more importantly not disturbing the microbiome as much.  If you can graze the covers or use your chickens on the fields things will get better even faster.  
 
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