Onlookers take in the cover crops on display at Dakotafest.
This year’s Dakotafest was a hot one! Despite the heat, many folks made it out and dropped by the SDSU tent. This year, David Karki and Anthony Bly organized a booth that drew many visitors - a cover crop extravaganza! Although no balloons were released, excitement was in the air.
Featured Cover Crops & Discussion Topics
Several common cover crops to South Dakota were on display including radish, turnip, cereal rye, and field pea, as well as a few unique plants like teff grass and sunn hemp. A high carbon and low carbon grass/brassica blend was also shown in an effort to demonstrate different ways cover crops can be used depending upon grower goals.
Common topics of discussion included crop blending options and agronomic risks associated with growing cover crops. As a basic rule of thumb, it is best to plant prominently grass mixtures prior to broadleaf cash crops (like soybeans) and prominently broadleaf mixtures before grass crops (such as corn). If your goal is to graze, a high carbon blend may be right for you.
Planting & Management Options
There is a multitude of options when it comes to planting and utilizing cover crops. Some growers focus solely on soil health by allowing their cover crop to grow and decompose on its own; others use the crop as a grazing tool in the fall. Either use involves risk factors including cost of seed, stand establishment, moisture uptake, nutrient uptake, and appropriate termination time. However, the benefits of the system are what entices many - cover crops build soil organic matter, feed soil biology, protect surfaces from erosion, guard soil moisture, and can provide extended grazing opportunities.
If you are interested in trying a cover crop and didn’t make it to the extravaganza, feel free to contact David Karki, Anthony Bly, or Sara Berg, or check out the NRCS/USDA South Dakota cover crop page.