Area Farmers Receive Grant to Study Maximizing Profit by Planting Cover Crops into Corn

By Alan Kraus, CRWP Conservation Program Manager

Key to growing cover crops profitably is to use the vegetative growth of the cover crop (the biomass) as forage for livestock. Cover crops interseeded into corn provides a source of forage that is immediately available for livestock after the corn is harvested. This project will test the effect of corn row width on cover crop biomass and corn grain yields. Planting corn in wider rows may produce more cover crop growth, but it may reduce corn yield drastically and reduce total profit. To learn about this question, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture awarded CRWP and the University of Minnesota a Sustainable Ag Demonstration Grant to work with three Goodhue County farmers and one Rice County farmer. Each farmer will plant 20 acres of corn in 5 replicated plots using 3 different row widths and then interseed a cover crop mix into the corn in late June for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 planting seasons. Cover crop biomass quantity and quality along with corn grain yields compared between treatments will determine the corn row width that optimizes cover crop biomass production and corn grain yield and ultimately, profit. Cover crops improve water quality by keeping nutrients in the soil and by keeping the soil in the field. Cover crops are plants such as annual rye grass, winter rye, oats, and clovers that are planted either early in the growth stage of corn or after corn harvest.