Each year, more and more farmers are adopting the practice of planting cereal rye ahead of soybeans as a cover crop. And each year we have new situations arise that we don’t anticipate during the spring planting season. If you are growing specialty crops like non-GMO soybeans, for example, special precautions should be taken to ensure the crop’s grain is not adulterated at harvest. The specialty grain production contracts have specific requirements that must be met to receive the premium for the grain.
Adulterated grain happens at harvest when there is another substance, such as other crop seeds, found in the sample. In some cases, volunteer cereal rye that was used as a cover crop was harvested with the soybeans and ultimately adulterates (contaminates) the soybean grain crop. There are two ways this can happen.
The cereal rye wasn’t terminated in a timely manner and went to seed prior to spring soybean planting. When cereal rye is left to grow, and soybean planting happens late in the season, rye can go to seed before it is terminated. Terminating the rye earlier in the spring or rolling and roller crimping the rye before or after planting can resolve this issue. If the rye has gone to seed before the soybeans are planted, then rolling or crimping would put the cereal rye grain in contact with the soil and not allow it to be harvested with the soybean crop. Any equipment that rolls the cereal rye will work if it has been chemically terminated.
In most cases cereal rye is very easy to terminate in the spring. However, if the spring is cool and plants aren’t actively growing during the termination process some plants may survive and ultimately go to seed later in the season. A glyphosate burndown application after the temperature has averaged above 50 degrees for 3 continuous days will typically result in a good kill on the cover crop. Gramoxone® can also be used to terminate the cover crop and in some instances will provide better termination. If you used glyphosate you know it takes 3 to 5 days to register a kill. Gramoxone takes 3 to 5 hours.
If you plan to use roller crimping as your termination method, the correct growth stage for termination will be when the plant is at anthesis. The proper equipment must be used at the correct time for the roller crimping to be successful.
Always have a Plan A and a Plan B for cover crop termination. The plans may vary depending on the weather conditions, time of the year and growth stage of the cereal rye.
When properly managed cover crops can be beneficial to the soybean crop as well as the health of the soil. Be prepared to terminate the cover crop with the correct method at the right time. Following these guidelines will help guarantee your success, ability to earn the specialty crop premiums and avoid adulterated grain.
Reynolds joined American Farmland Trust in January 2017 as the Natural Resource Conservationist. He is responsible for working with the many partners in the Upper Macoupin Creek and Vermillion Headwaters Watersheds. Reynolds coordinates activities with farmers and landowners that improve water quality and soil health, enhance nutrient efficiency, utilize conservation cropping systems and meet the goals of Illinois’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. In addition to being a CCA, he holds specialty certifications from the American Society of Agronomy as a 4R Nutrient Management Specialist and Sustainability specialist. He holds a B.S. in Agronomy and Ag Business from Illinois State University.