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Over the last few weeks, we’ve shared some of the reasons farmers plant green, the benefits and drawbacks of this approach, and what you should know about setting up your equipment to make sure your experience is successful. In this final post of the series, we’re sharing the 3 things we think farmers should know before they get started with planting green.

Don’t expect magic results from a planter that’s already struggling.

If the planter you have today doesn’t produce consistent stands where 97% or more of the crop comes up in a 48-hour window, then stand consistency with planting green isn’t going to get any better. Planters that are light on weight now – where downforce control systems struggle to push the plant in vs. lifting the planter up – will need more weight added for this same reason.

Nutrient management – and knowing how nutrients move – is key.

When planting green, a lot of nutrients will be unavailable early in the season as they are tied up in the living cover crop. However, the plant will slowly release those nutrients as it decomposes. We’ve found that, in the long-term, no-till cover crop fields planted green seem to have fewer issues with this, while newer green-planted fields will need to be managed accordingly. We suggest an in-furrow nutrient source or variable rate applications of nutrients to help manage these levels accordingly.

Don’t forget about the critters.

When planting green, you will want to think about how that impacts wildlife in the area. By giving insects a place to live, that might mean you will need additional management to handle troublesome insects or slugs. Longer-term sites seem to have a balanced system where beneficial insects help control pests, but a newer site might need to be managed more closely through increased integrated pest management (IPM) work, including insect and slug counts.

Additionally, cover crops can serve as nesting areas for overwintering voles, which can be tough on an emerging cash crop and can wreak havoc with continual nesting activities throughout the growing season. We recommend looking into putting out hawk poles, mowing around your fields to make it easier for other natural apex predators to get at those voles, and putting out bait/traps (make sure to read your labels for approved usage).

Digging In

We hope the information provided over the last few weeks has helped you better understand the practice of planting green. As we’ve said before, any management practice should take into account the specific needs and goals of your farm. If planting green is an approach that fits, be sure to reach out to your SHP Field Manager or agronomist with any questions.

Jack Cornell
Jack Cornell
Jack Cornell is the Field Team Director–East and a Field Manager for Soil Health Partnership covering Tennessee.
Keith Byerly
Keith Byerly
Keith Byerly is the Field Team Director–West and a Field Manager for Soil Health Partnership covering Kansas and Nebraska.