The cover crop test plots at Farm Fest 2019 grew successfully and provided great conversations.  Planted June 26th, broadcasted and lightly drug, then left to grow.  I wanted to know if any benefits were realized by having the cover crops out there for two months.  On August 30th I went back to the plots to see their growth and do some testing.  I completed the shovel test, infiltration, and compaction testing.  The cover crops were growing without competition from a row crop so their two months of growth was more vigorous than interseeded covers but provide information that is applicable to prevent plant covers, covers after small grains, and interseeded covers at the end of the growing season.  Here’s what was found:

Crop Ground (corn)
Shovel test:
No worms
Weak to no structure (massive)
Compaction (used a penetrometer):
0”- 3” 300 psi
3”- 14” 300+ psi
Infiltration: 78 minutes

Compaction in corn ground

Compaction layers in the corn ground
Bottom of infiltration ring after running the test in the corn ground

Cover Crop Ground
Shovel test:
2 worms
Developing granular and subangular blocky structure
Compaction layers reduced
Compaction (used a penetrometer):
0”- 10” 200 psi
10”- 14” 290 psi
Infiltration: 21.5 minutes

Structure on the cover crop ground
Cover crop roots penetrating compaction
Pulled the infiltration ring out of the cover crop ground and the soil stayed in place, no violence in removing this soil!

For cover crop mixes, check out our easy to use spreadsheet:

Also check out MN NRCS’s cover crop guide for information on each cover crop species and design tools to make your own mix! Minnesota Cover Crop Design Tool Nov2018

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