Cover crops and their role in improving soil conditions is an important consideration with many agricultural crops. Whether cover crops are worth the cost with white or red winter wheat has been the subject of early research funded by the Michigan Wheat Program.
At the beginning of its research agenda in 2012, the wheat check-off funded an investigation by Dr. Dean Baas, MSU extension educator in sustainable agriculture, to confirm and quantify the value of oilseed radish (OSR) interplanted with wheat. Many successful wheat farmers have long believed that OSR helps increase yields.
It is also believed that cover crops after wheat make a big contribution to soil health. Dr. Kim Cassida, MSU assistant professor and forage specialist for MSU Extension, did that research. Read on, to see what does and does not work in Michigan.
Note: MSU and the Michigan Wheat Program caution that three years of data should always be reviewed to get a more complete picture of research results. Farmers also must weigh input costs for fertilizer, fungicides and other inputs against the up-side of higher yields.
Research on Cover Crops Following Wheat as a Double Crop Forage
Research by Dr. Kim Cassida
2017 Report: Using Cover Crops after Wheat to Improve Soil Health
The fallow period between wheat harvest and corn planting in Michigan crop rotations offers a prime opportunity for double-cropping with a cover crop to improve soil quality, fix nitrogen and provide harvest-able forage.
Many growers believe that harvesting a cover crop will negatively affect future crop productivity, and lack information on which cover crops are most appropriate for this situation. This study looked at nine cover crop species, planted in two sites for two consecutive years.
All cover crops provided weed suppression over the late summer compared to the experimental control. Some crop species established poorly and are not recommended to follow wheat.
Click below to read the 2017 final report on the project from Cassida.
Research on Impact of Oilseed Radish Interplanted with Wheat
Research by Dr. Dean Baas
2017 Report: Evaluation of Oilseed Radish Added to Wheat to Increase Wheat Yields in Michigan
Dr. Baas has completed this project that he began in 2012 with inconclusive results. The research focused on a common practice that many wheat farmers have adopted: Planting wheat and oilseed radish (OSR) at the same time.
Many farmers believe that OSR enhances their wheat yields, and as one of the first projects funded by the Michigan Wheat Program in 2012, Baas set out to quantify this common practice. He utilized 17 large on-farm plantings and over 100 small-scale research plots over four years.
While most of the large-scale plantings showed increases that were economically advantageous, Baas was unable to replicate these results on small-scale research plots beyond random chance. Yet the large-scale field success must be acknowledged.
Click below to read the intriguing 2017 final report on the project from Baas.