Cover crops thriving in mild start to winter

An extension soils specialist says thriving cover crops are helping keep soil and nutrients in the fields with little to no snow on the ground.

Daniel Smith is the Program Manager for the University of Wisconsin Nutrient and Pest Management program.  Smith says much of the Midwest has had little to no frost and several extra growing degree units. “I’ve been watching a field of oats right below my house ever since it was seeded after corn silage in mid-September. It really thrived this year. A cover crop like oats will grow down to 20 degrees fahrenheit.”

Smith says he has never seen cover crop oats grow this much, leading to much more biomass and phenomenal root development. “It’s going to be a really interesting spring as we see these cover crops already well developed, and they should really take off once temperatures warm back up.”

A weather system next week is expected to bring significant snowfall to much of the Midwest, and if that happens, “It’s hard to say what the species that are supposed to winter kill will do under that typical scenario, but our overwintering cover crops will definitely thrive under that insulated blanket and be ready to take off as soon as that snow melts.”

Smith says rye will also keep growing until the mid 20-degree range, and with little to no frost so far, most cover crops have been thriving.

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