John Pike, an operator of Pike Ag, LLC, located in Marion, Illinois, is a consultant and researcher specializing in nutrient management, cover crops, and water quality. In this video, Pike showcases his farm located south of Marion, where he has implemented a nine-year intensive cover crop program.

Pike emphasizes the importance of developing a strategy and planning well in advance for cover crops, considering factors such as location, crop rotation, and field conditions. In preparation for planting corn this year, Pike planted an early maturing bean crop in 2022, allowing for an early harvest and the subsequent planting of cover crops. The chosen mix included cereal rye, annual ryegrass, hairy vetch, and crimson clover, which were seeded in fall 2022.

During the winter, the cover crop experienced cold temperatures for consecutive days, resulting in some crop loss. However, it managed to recover and continued to grow in the spring. Pike notes that had the cover crop been seeded 2-3 weeks later in the fall, there would have been less growth of the hairy vetch and crimson clover species. In April, the cereal rye and annual ryegrass were terminated.

When implementing a cover crop program, Pike advises considering the overall system strategy, as different cover crop mixes can present specific challenges. For example, when planting corn into cereal rye, nitrogen concerns may arise.

After harvesting the corn crop in the fall, Pike plans to drill another diverse mix of cover crop seeds into the field. In the spring, he intends to plant early maturing soybeans. Over the course of the nine-year intensive cover crop management program, Pike has witnessed significant improvements in soil health and nutrient management, resulting in positive impacts on his farm operation.

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About the Author: Kelsey Litchfield

Kelsey Litchfield is the Agronomic Outreach Specialist for the Illinois Soybean Association. In her role, she manages ILSoyAdvisor media platforms and assists the agronomy team with events and field days. A native of Rio, IL, Kelsey earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2017 where she double majored in Agricultural Communications and Broadcast Journalism.

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