Cover Crops Can Lead to Lower Silage Yields

Research at the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in New York shows planting corn into a growing stand of winter rye can reduce silage yield of the subsequent corn crop. Trial results from 2016 showed corn silage yields decreased by 4 tons per acre. Eric Young, an agronomist at the Miner Institute, suspects planting the corn into actively growing rye exacerbated a yield penalty associated with the rye. “Establishing a winter forage crop such as rye or triticale after corn silage harvest can reduce soil erosion and improve soil health, and can potentially supply a forage crop for spring harvest,” he says. “But attention to management and the right growing conditions are needed.”

So in 2017, the rye was disked in prior to corn planting, resulting in no significant difference in corn yield. Young is now suggesting rye be terminated two weeks prior to corn planting. The rye should be incorporated into the soil with some form of tillage to increase the rate of rye biomass decomposition and allow for easier planting and more consistent seeding depth for corn. The good news: “Our field work in both years suggests that the presence of a rye cover crop reduced losses of nitrogen and phosphorus in field surface runoff,” Young says.

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