Volunteer Cover Crops

November 12, 2021

Dale Longwell, Seed Specialist & CCA

Volunteer Cover CropsI have noticed a lot of “cover crop” corn and soybeans in the harvested fields this year. I think the opportunity to get an early start on harvest and the warm wet period in October germinated the field loose in those fields. I was wondering why there was so much? The conclusion I came to is this…

On the corn side, visiting with customers that ran corn in September and early October, I noticed a common theme: test weights were low. Across many different brands of corn, test weights were in the 48-53 pound weight per bushel when the corn was in the 25% moisture and above range. I think that most farmers do a good job setting their combines, so I know that this wide spread problem is not a combine setting problem. I think that with the lower test weight, maybe some of the lighter weight kernels were blown out the back of the combines. Also, maybe some of the shriveled kernels on the tip of the ear of corn that usually doesn’t get shelled off, may have germinated and produced the volunteer cover crop in our corn fields this season.

Volunteer Cover Crops

With soybeans this year, I noticed that the beans were podded close to the ground, which may have contributed to shatter loss at the cutter bar. I also think that the dry weather we had in late August and September caused some beans to not fully mature and were shriveled and small, mainly the third and fourth beans in the pod. As with corn, I think that these shriveled beans were lighter and easily blown out the back of the combine. Although small, I think with the weather these germinated and grew the “cover crops”.

With the recent freezes and some fall burn down applications, most of these cover crops have disappeared. I think most guys are finishing up their harvest still, or are close to it.

From visiting with my growers, most are happy with their corn yields. As the corn has field dried, the test weights have come up. I had one customer bragging that the elevator told him he had the highest test weight they had seen all year! Soybeans are yielding average, with some exceptional yields where there was timely rains.

Have a safe rest of your harvest and happy holidays!