Friday, April 13, 2018

Cover Crop Termination Tips


The calendar says it is the second week in April, but recent weather conditions suggest otherwise.  Cool, wet soils have halted field work throughout the Burrus footprint, but we are hopeful we will be able to get into the field soon to plant, apply fertilizer, apply a burndown, etc.  For growers with cover crops, there is also an additional step – terminating that cover crop.  Being able to adequately terminate your cover crop is essential to the success of your cash crop.  Most commonly, a herbicide program is used to control the cover crop. Helpful tips to ensure success are below.

1. Herbicide selection
Herbicide selection can be dependent on which cover crop you used.  It is important to know what species you have in your mix to get the most control.  For instance, a dense stand of cereal ryegrass will not be controlled with 2,4-D products. Glyphosate is a commonly used active ingredient which is non-selective.  For added broadleaf control of possible broadleaf cover crops or broadleaf weeds, the addition of a growth regulator type herbicide can give added control.  If you are applying the herbicide prior to planting the cash crop, know plant back restrictions (see chart below).  If you are applying the herbicide in-crop, know which herbicide tolerance your crop has.

Purdue University Extension


2. Cover crop growth stage
Although we know there are numerous benefits to using cover crops, when it comes to termination, we must think of them as a weed.  By this I mean we want to apply the herbicide when we would apply it to weeds, therefore follow height and growth stage restrictions or adjust rates accordingly.  Plants that are jointing or bolting are more difficult to kill. Therefore, other means of termination may be warranted.

3. Weather conditions
For the best herbicide efficacy, the plant needs to be actively growing otherwise you will not get adequate control.  For the plant to be actively growing we typically recommend temperatures greater than 50 degrees.  This does not mean one day above 50 degrees, but multiple days to have the plant active and therefore taking up the herbicide.  Timing becomes important here because as we start warming up, the cover crop will begin actively growing and will rapidly gain size, making the herbicide possibly less effective. 

With the delay of planting, growers are going to be rushing around trying to get field work completed in a timely fashion.  If you do have cover crops, make sure that you are prepared to properly terminate them to prevent weeds in your cash crop.  As always, if you have any questions about cover crop termination reach out to your Burrus Sales Agronomist.

Jamie Long, CCA-RMS
Burrus Sales Agronomist

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