Autumn cover crops

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Problem
After harvesting summer crops (maize, soybean, sunflower, etc.) the soil remains bare until the following spring, which can lead to erosion and leaching.
Solution
A possible solution is to drill cover crops that protect the soil before the arrival of winter frost and low temperatures.
Description
Best results were reached with cereal mixtures that were produced on farm, such as barley and rye. Practical recommendations Observations and hints • In Northern Italy, a mixture of barley and rye fits best in a wide range of situations. • Sow as soon as possible after harvesting the summer crops. • If the soil is not clean enough, a shallow soil labour can be applied. Otherwise, direct sowing is preferred. • Including legumes in the mixture, such as vetch and/or faba beans, has been shown to be advantageous when the cover crop is sown in early September or October, and the succeeding crop is sown at the end of May. • In case of early sowing by end of August, a cover crop consisting of only white mustard showed good results, especially in its decompacting ability, due to its taproot. • The cover crop should be sown evenly. Areas with no seeds can promote weed growth. • When possible, it is preferable to apply reduced tillage to prepare the seedbed in spring. Thus, the positive effects of the cover crop taproot system are preserved.
Applicability
Theme
Soil quality and fertility, Weed management
Languages
English, Italian language


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