Rye Cover Crop, Old Pig Pasture

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I moved the remaining farrowing huts and mowed the rape and old hay on one of my pig pastures.  I filled in the wallows and other places the pigs rooted with my loader.  I then scraped up the manure from a hay feeding area for my cattle, and spread three loads of this manure on the pasture.

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I used an old soil cultivator  to work up the soil.  This implement is more for finishing tillage rather than starting it, but I own it and I just wanted to lightly and quickly till to mix in the manure and to ensure good soil-to-seed contact.  I had to raise the implement up a few times when some long stems of rape bunched up.  Otherwise it did fine.

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My plan is to grow organic sweet corn here next year.  I’m concerned about weeds, so I talked to an old organic farmer in my area.  He told me to plant cereal rye the fall before I want to grow organic corn.

Rye has an allelopathic effect on  other plants.  Rye releases compounds which inhibit the germination and growth of other plants.  This effect is greater on smaller-seeded plants like weeds, but less of an effect on a large-seeded plant like corn.

I read an article in Progressive Forage Grower titled, “Monitoring nitrogen dynamics in cover-crop mixtures”.  The study showed how a nitrogen-fixing cover crop such as hairy vetch was able to improve yields when no nitrogen fertilizer was added as compared to a non-nitrogen fixing cover crop like rye.  Since I plan on adding no commercial nitrogen, I thought it may be good to include hairy vetch with the cereal rye.

Unfortunately, I read it a little late to incorporate the results into my planting.  I wanted to get the field planted before a rain to help germination.  I planted it last Friday, September 27th.  It rained that night.

However, my thinking is my plants will have more nitrogen available than in the study because I have manure to spread on the field.  The rye is known for sucking up the available nitrogen in the soil and will release it back into the soil in the spring when it breaks down.  The challenge as I understand it is to kill the rye and have it breaking down, releasing nitrogen to the newly growing crop as the crop needs it.

Rye can be a challenge to kill.  The earlier paper I cited said rye should be incorporated into the soil when it’s 12 to 18 inches high.  A wet spring can make this a challenge because rye is known for its fast growth.  I’m not sure what I will use for spring tillage.  Rotovating is more popular now, and my partners own a rotovator, so maybe I’ll use that.

Back to this year.  The photo below shows how I planted the rye.  I used my 12 ft. John Deere grain drill followed by a 12 ft. Brillion cultipacker.  The cultipacker helps to break down any clumps remaining and ensures good soil-to-seed contact.

I planted about two bushels or 110 lbs. of rye to the acre.  I checked the field today and the rye is shooting out of the soil less than a week after planting.  I’ll probably post some photos in the future to track its progress.

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3 Responses to Rye Cover Crop, Old Pig Pasture

  1. Chris says:

    You walk a fine line between innovation and evidence-based practices, don’t you.

  2. Thanks Chris, I guess so. The thing about farming is, the variables are ever-changing, so its probably a necessity to innovate.

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