BLEVINS | Annual Forage Field Day and the benefits of cover crops | Agriculture

Phil Blevins

Annual Forage Field Day

The annual Southwest Forage Field Day will be held at the Southwest AREC in Glade Spring beginning at 5:30 pm this Thursday, August 18. Topics addressed will include Woody Pasture Weed Control, Effectiveness of Nitrogen Stabilizers, Fall Forage Options, Orchard grass and Fescue Variety Performance, GPS Guidance System, and Tour of Corn Silage Hybrid Evaluation Plots. Supper will be served so please call the office at 276-676-6309 by Tuesday, August 16, if you plan to attend.

Cover Crops

As we approach the fall season farmers and gardeners alike often will have bare soil where they once had a crop. Decisions made regarding cover crops can affect the productivity of the soil in both the short term and long term. There are a number of plant species that can be used as cover crops. One advantage that is common to all types is the prevention of soil erosion. It has long been known that the loss of topsoil results in poor crop performance now and in the future. Many tons of soil can be lost from an acre of land that is left exposed to the rain over the winter. Another important benefit that all cover crops offer is the ability to capture nutrients (particularly nitrogen) left from the previous crop. This allows these nutrients to be returned to the soil when the cover crop decomposes the next season. It also keeps the nutrients from entering our water sources.

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The most common cover crops are the small grains such as rye, wheat, and barley. These crops are usually sown from mid-September to mid-October or in the case of rye as late as early November. In the spring they are harvested for hay or straw, left standing as cover for no till purposes, or plowed under as a green manure crop. A good seeding rate would be from 1.5 to 2 bushels per acre or about two to three pounds per 1,000 square feet for small areas.

Another option is a legume such as crimson clover or vetch. These plants have an added advantage of supplying additional nitrogen to the next crop. Crimson clover should be sown from August through early September at a rate of 20 to 30 pounds of seed per acre or one half pound per 1,000 square feet. Hairy vetch can be owned from August through October at the same rate. Use pea and vetch inoculant for the best success with vetch.

Phil Blevins is an agricultural extension agent in Washington County, Virginia.


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