Cover crops add a tool to deal with varying moisture levels

Before the million-dollar rain the whole region was waiting for began falling, the first corn crop planted into a cover crop at Ohio State Lima’s Regenerative Farm was struggling to form an even growth pattern due to the dry conditions. The 1.2” that fell on the farm June 11 broke a 23-day dry spell in northwest Ohio and gives any corn that was lagging enough moisture to grow.

Seeing how the crop develops in a variety of situations is just part of the process for farmer Todd Mason as he tends to the fields that are essentially a giant learning lab in addition to a working farm. Except for the 35 acres of conventional tillage test comparison plots, the whole farm is now in a cover crop rotation, which gives Mason a new tool to work with.

Early this spring when things were soggy, Mason let the cover crops grow a little longer to soak up more of the water to get him on to the fields. It worked and all the crops were in just in time for the dry streak.

The dry period slowed the growth of the corn, but the soybeans planted into rye earlier in the spring are progressing well. Mason anticipates that the recent rain will give all the crops a boost.

The presence of cover crops also gives a whole new look and feel to planting.

“The 2023 corn planting was an event to remember by planting into the 2-feet of biomass of crimson clover and hairy vetch,” Mason said. “In the fall, we will attempt to use an aerial crop-dusting company to fly rye on while the corn is growing.”

Keep up with drought conditions and science-based recommendations to protect livestock, crops and farm operations at OSU Extension’s Early Drought Response website,

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