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Spring Cover Crop Burndown Tips

Apr 17, 2019

Early April warm weather has cover crop winter rye really greening up nice, so growth has started.  Even with the cooler weather and snow the second week of April, the rye will grow again just as soon as the snow melts.  The cover crops have been doing a good job even before growth started with helping minimize erosion from the March rain & rapid snow melt.

Now as we want to get ready to plant corn, we need to terminate that rye as soon as possible.  It is recommended that we knock it out two weeks prior to planting corn.  This will be a challenge with the weather and soil conditions we will likely have to deal with the rest of April.  It is however, a must due to rye’s allelopathy.  Allelopathy is the rye producing biochemical that negatively impacts seed germination (especially grass type plants like foxtails and corn) and early development.  The two weeks is the recommended time to rid the soil of this effect.  Soybeans seem to not need this time and many times beans can be planted the day after the rye is terminated and it works out fine.
Roundup works as good or better than anything else to terminate the rye.  Rates need to be kept on the high side, even though rye is a grass it is tough to knock out.  One challenge we always face is assuming we can just throw some Roundup in with the liquid nitrogen and kill everything.  There are a couple things to consider here. 
  1. We are applying Roundup with liquid nitrogen which tends to burn the rye quickly, thus, it can shut the plants down before all the Roundup is tranlocated inside the plants.  Cutting the liquid N with some water helps lessen the burn but in higher rates of N this isn’t done as easily. 
  2. Flood type nozzles are needed to apply the liquid N and they are not really designed for optimum coverage patterns for weeds. 
  3. Finally, we can also be applying the day the rye had frost on it from cold overnight lows sometimes seen in April yet thus slowing uptake. 

That being said we have done quite a few acres the last few years successfully, but you just need to be aware this is far from a perfect situation so inconsistent control in certain conditions are possible.  Be paying attention if control isn’t 100% and that you may need to hit any survivors with an early post-applied shot to finish it off.

CFE agronomists can walk you through this and help
make your success the best possible.

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