By Lynn Betts and Steve BergerWhile many first-time users say they choose cover crops for soil conservation purposes,there...
The two are now 100% no-till and 100% rye cover crop on their 2,000 acres of corn and soybeanland. They like to keep their...
My wife Julie and I farm with my parents, Dennis and Janice Berger in southeastern Iowa. We growabout 2,000 acres of corn ...
October 10. What you’ll see in this series of photos is cereal rye. We’ve used cereal rye for more than 10years on our far...
Cereal rye roots grow as deep as 4 feet. This gets the corn roots deeper into the soil and makes morewater available to th...
March 29. This is annual ryegrass in late winter. We’ve used annual ryegrass on occasion. It’s a differentspecies than cer...
October 10. By the time we were harvesting corn, the aerial-seeded rye had a good growth already—seethe strip of grass. We...
And one more. Aerial seeding is definitely an option, at least on part of our acres.
But, again, most of our rye cover crop is drilled after harvest. We’ve drilled rye as late as November 1here in southeast ...
What we are doing is cashing in on the sun’s energy to put carbon back into the soil and providing areally good cover for ...
Fall is also the time we apply hog manure and turkey manure.The hog manure comes from our swine finishing operation. The t...
December 4. Our busiest time of the year is from the beginning of harvest until the time the groundfreezes. Besides harves...
We’ve been tiling our land consistently for 50 years. For more than ten years, we’ve used a Soil-Max tileplow we purchased...
We like the rye to be brown and completely dead before planting corn. The top growth will shrivel anddisappear over time, ...
April 24. We place 60 pounds of UAN in a band 3 inches to the side and two inches below thecorn seeds.We also place pop-up...
This is what the corn typically looks like in a rye cover at V3 to V4 stage in May.May 29. All our corn is sidedressed eve...
The spokewheel applicator doesn’t leave much of a mark, so it doesn’t open us up to erosion.This is my father Dennis and o...
We like to have rye covering all our land, but especially our sloping land, for about 7 months ofthe year.You can let rye ...
May 12. Here we’re drilling soybeans into rye that was sprayed May 1.If you look at the lower left, you’ll see how much co...
We’ve been 100 percent no-till for many years. This field, our first, has been in continuous no-tillfor 34 years.But even ...
So we’re on a path to do more than conserve our soil; we’re slowly building our soil.
We’re taking advantage of having roots in the ground, most of the time growing roots.
They give energy to soil microbes that in turn build organic matter and build better soilstructure.April 15. We’ve been ab...
Of course, we wouldn’t be doing all this if it wasn’t profitable. We’ve got to keep yields up, andwe have been able to do ...
So we’re happy with the results we’re getting, both in the returns from our land…And from the protection of the resource, ...
We’re into cover crops for the long haul—they will always be included on ourproduction calendar.
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Steve Berger Cover Crop calendar

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I only made slight modifications to this
excellent collection of photos and text by Lynn Betts and Steve Berger.

Click on the following link to access the original on-line presentation:
http://farmprogress.com/story-2012-rye-cover-crop-calendar-14-94095

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Steve Berger Cover Crop calendar

  1. 1. By Lynn Betts and Steve BergerWhile many first-time users say they choose cover crops for soil conservation purposes,there are many other reasons covers are once again becoming popular.Cover crops—and old practice thats being revived for soil conservation and soil buildingreasons—arent yet in widespread use in corn and soybean operations. But the practice isgrowing.In Iowa, for instance, cover crop acres in the EQIP program in Iowa jumped from 4,000 acresfour years ago to more than 50,000 acres last year. Indiana is said to have about a million acresof cover crops. Incentives are being offered in many states because the practice can save soil,build soil, and improve water quality.While many first-time users say they choose cover crops for soil conservation purposes, there aremany other reasons covers are once again becoming popular. Increasing soil organic matter,reducing soil compaction, increasing water infiltration, reducing inputs, and building better soilstructure are among the advantages cover crops have shown.Most farmers using cover crops are also no-till farmers. The two practices fit hand in glove toliterally bring the soil alive as they provide the environment that soil-building microbes need tothrive.Steve and Dennis Berger of Wellman, Iowa, have used no-till for years—this crop year will bethe 35th consecutive year one of their fields has been farmed without tillage. They also have agood deal of experience in using cover crops with no-till, having planted cereal rye for more than10 years each fall on corn and soybean land.
  2. 2. The two are now 100% no-till and 100% rye cover crop on their 2,000 acres of corn and soybeanland. They like to keep their land covered with something green and growing for as much as theyear as possible.I tried to follow the Bergers through their key operations in 2012, taking photos of what they doand when to successfully protect their land investment and produce viable crops.If youre already using cover crops, youll probably relate to the actions the Bergers take eachyear to include a rye cover in their operation. If youre considering using rye as a cover crop, wehope the photos, timing, and comments will give you a better idea of what steps you may want totake as you move into cover crops on your land.Narration by Steve Berger, Wellman, Iowa. Photos by Lynn Betts and Steve BergerDates listed are the day the photo was taken in calendar year 2012.Original presentation - http://farmprogress.com/story-2012-rye-cover-crop-calendar-14-94095This layout was assembled by Joel Gruver. WIU- Agriculture
  3. 3. My wife Julie and I farm with my parents, Dennis and Janice Berger in southeastern Iowa. We growabout 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans on both flat and rolling land.September 18. Our crop production calendar for most of our cropland starts in September when we seedour cereal rye cover crop directly behind the combine.
  4. 4. October 10. What you’ll see in this series of photos is cereal rye. We’ve used cereal rye for more than 10years on our farm because it’s adapted well to Iowa, and because it has an excellent root system.Our corn roots often follow the vertical channels left in the soil from decayed rye roots.
  5. 5. Cereal rye roots grow as deep as 4 feet. This gets the corn roots deeper into the soil and makes morewater available to the corn plant. It helps recycle nutrients as well and to build organic matter in the soil.
  6. 6. March 29. This is annual ryegrass in late winter. We’ve used annual ryegrass on occasion. It’s a differentspecies than cereal rye.September 6. We aerial seeded 220 acres of cereal rye into green corn. We’ve aerial seeded some of ourcover crops occasionally, and may do more of it in the future. We aerial seed more if we’ve got a lot ofrain in August and September.
  7. 7. October 10. By the time we were harvesting corn, the aerial-seeded rye had a good growth already—seethe strip of grass. We get more early growth and aerial applications save on labor needed to drill rye.Rye’s growth by October 10 when we were harvesting.
  8. 8. And one more. Aerial seeding is definitely an option, at least on part of our acres.
  9. 9. But, again, most of our rye cover crop is drilled after harvest. We’ve drilled rye as late as November 1here in southeast Iowa.November 6. By early November, the rye we drilled in mid-to-late September is up and growing well, too.
  10. 10. What we are doing is cashing in on the sun’s energy to put carbon back into the soil and providing areally good cover for late fall, winter, and spring.In recent years, we’ve sprayed all corn and soybean land with 2,4-D in the fall to control winter annuals.
  11. 11. Fall is also the time we apply hog manure and turkey manure.The hog manure comes from our swine finishing operation. The two manures meet about two-thirds ofour fertilizer needs—the rest is commercial fertilizer. We also apply commercial potash in the fall asneeded. The rye you see here was drilled after corn harvest.
  12. 12. December 4. Our busiest time of the year is from the beginning of harvest until the time the groundfreezes. Besides harvesting and seeding a cover crop, we do all the tiling we can.We believe tiling is one of the best investments we can make in our land.
  13. 13. We’ve been tiling our land consistently for 50 years. For more than ten years, we’ve used a Soil-Max tileplow we purchased.March 29. Our Spring work usually starts in March. We spray our rye two to three weeks before plantingcorn.
  14. 14. We like the rye to be brown and completely dead before planting corn. The top growth will shrivel anddisappear over time, but the roots will last longer below the surface to give several benefits to us.At planting time, we add some nitrogen to what was applied in the fall as manure.
  15. 15. April 24. We place 60 pounds of UAN in a band 3 inches to the side and two inches below thecorn seeds.We also place pop-up starter fertilizer and insecticide in the furrow with our no-till planter.
  16. 16. This is what the corn typically looks like in a rye cover at V3 to V4 stage in May.May 29. All our corn is sidedressed every year. We began sidedressing our corn on May 29 witha spokewheel applicator.
  17. 17. The spokewheel applicator doesn’t leave much of a mark, so it doesn’t open us up to erosion.This is my father Dennis and our full time hired man Corey Malichky.The spokewheel applicator moves through the rye residue really well, and it doesn’t leave atrack open for erosion like a coulter can. It helps us sidedress a lot of acres of corn with 32percent liquid nitrogen when the corn needs it.
  18. 18. We like to have rye covering all our land, but especially our sloping land, for about 7 months ofthe year.You can let rye grow taller ahead of soybeans before you terminate it.
  19. 19. May 12. Here we’re drilling soybeans into rye that was sprayed May 1.If you look at the lower left, you’ll see how much corn residue is still left on the soil surface.
  20. 20. We’ve been 100 percent no-till for many years. This field, our first, has been in continuous no-tillfor 34 years.But even with no-till, and with more than 14 miles of terraces, we didn’t think our soybeanresidues did enough to control all erosion. And we found we were only maintaining organicmatter overall, losing some in the soybean year of the rotation.
  21. 21. So we’re on a path to do more than conserve our soil; we’re slowly building our soil.
  22. 22. We’re taking advantage of having roots in the ground, most of the time growing roots.
  23. 23. They give energy to soil microbes that in turn build organic matter and build better soilstructure.April 15. We’ve been able to see the result of our combination of no-till, cover crops, manureand tiling. We’ve seen, for instance, most of our rainwater infiltrate. And when you see muddyrunoff from neighboring fields after heavy rains but what runoff you have is clear, you think youmust be doing something right. I took this picture in April of 2012 after a 3-inch rain.
  24. 24. Of course, we wouldn’t be doing all this if it wasn’t profitable. We’ve got to keep yields up, andwe have been able to do that.Our corn yields have been consistently above the county average, on land with a corn suitabilityrating that’s at the county average.
  25. 25. So we’re happy with the results we’re getting, both in the returns from our land…And from the protection of the resource, so it will be productive for years to come. Soilconservation is a long-term commitment, and cover crops are an important piece of that.
  26. 26. We’re into cover crops for the long haul—they will always be included on ourproduction calendar.

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