Cover crops are doing their job during warm winter

An agronomist says the record warm December in Wisconsin is highlighting the importance of using cover crops.

Matt Oehmichen with Short Lane Farm Supply tells Brownfield for fun, he took soil temperature measurements Tuesday. “It’s amazing because on the soil temps readout, it bottoms out once you get to 34 or 35 (degrees), and in a cover crop field, it stayed at 38 and in a soybean field, it stayed at 37, and that’s like three inches down from the surface.”

And, he says cover crop root samples show the roots grew between Thanksgiving week and Wednesday. “One, it’s surprising that there’s no frost in the ground. Two, there’s higher-guage roots down in that 10-12 inch root zone, so at some point, those plants were able to continue to grow from gun (deer) season (Thanksgiving week) until now, so they were able to put on more root mass.”

Oehmichen says that additional root mass will help with drainage, erosion control, and will help farmers get into fields sooner this spring. “Anybody that had the late-applied rye, yeah, they’re getting a big benefit or some of you had any kind of perennial red clover out there hoping to gain some nitrogen credits for next spring, this is big, too, because those plants are growing, too.”

Oehmichen says cereal rye is a popular cover crop since it will germinate with soil temperatures in the upper 30s.  He says several cover crops appear to be greening up for the holidays, but it’s likely just more noticeable because there’s no snow cover. 

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