Cover crop seeding: Remember to calculate pure live seed

Submitted by Sara Berges, Allamakee SWCD

As fall approaches and producers prepare for harvest, many are also preparing for cover crop seeding. Keep in mind a few points regarding seeding rates, methods, and seeding dates. If you are receiving government cost-share (either through state funds or federal EQIP funds) and are planting winter-hardy species like cereal rye, the planting deadline is October 21. Cereal rye should be planted at a rate of 55 lbs/acre of pure live seed (PLS) if drilling, 61 lbs/ac PLS if broadcasting with incorporation, and 66 lbs/acre of PLS if broadcasting without incorporation.  Pure Live Seed can be determined using the following calculation (percent germination + dormant seed) x (percent purity) all divided by 100. There are also calculators available online (such as on the website) or stop by the NRCS office for assistance.

If you are surface broadcasting your cover crop, it is suggested that you plant 7-10 days before the planting deadline to compensate for slower establishment and variable rainfall. If you plan to graze your cover crop in the spring, it is suggested that you increase your seeding rate by 1.5 times the base rate.

The earlier you can get your cover crop planted, the better.  Fall growth is mainly focused on below-ground growth (i.e. roots) rather than above ground growth.  Earlier planted cover crops generally have more established root systems and tend to have earlier shoot growth in the spring as well as increased tillering. If you can’t get your cover crop seeded until later, it is best to let it grow as long as you can in the spring to get the greatest benefit. You may also want to increase your seeding rate. If you are planting soybeans following cover crops, you can even plant into the cover crop while still green. RMA guidelines state that you have to terminate the cover crop within 5 days of planting, but before crop emergence. 

We do not have funds available for this fall’s cover crop. However, the first EQIP application deadline for cover crop for next fall is October 20. If you are interested in receiving state cost-share for cover crops, you’ll need to sign up next June.

If you have questions regarding cover crop establishment or seeding, contact the Waukon NRCS office at 563-568-2246 ext. 3 or stop by the office at 635 Ninth Street NW in Waukon.

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