Tips for Spring Cover Crop Termination

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Wheat field cover crop

If you’re just starting out with cover crops on your operation, you may have questions on how to make a successful transition from cover to cash crops this year.

“Unless Mother Nature delivers us more-than-normal rainfall, we’re going to see cover crops under a little bit more stress coming into the spring,” predicts Jason Gibson, market development specialist, Corteva Agriscience. “So, getting good translocation and thorough kill of those cover crops may be more challenging.”

To combat any weather-related challenges and get the most from both cover and cash crops this year, Gibson recommends evaluating cover crop stands early and keeping an eye on the weather conditions prior to cover crop termination.

Assess Cover Crops Early

Cover crop programs can cause shifts in both weed types and weed density. That’s why it’s important to look at the field this spring and ensure there aren’t any weeds growing with the cover crop.

“The intensity of weed suppression is very much dependent on having a good seed establishment and a uniform stand,” Gibson says. “In some cases, you may see more large-seeded broadleaf weeds because the cover crop suppressed a larger portion of small-seeded weeds like waterhemp.”

If you have a good stand, the cover crop will be in a better position to suppress early germinating weeds like waterhemp and Palmer amaranth. On the flip side, a thin cover crop stand with weeds present may call for adjustments to the original termination plan. In this case, ensure you’re selecting burndown herbicides capable of terminating both the cover crop and any existing weed populations.

Watch the Weather

Inclement or cool weather will inhibit herbicide efficacy, which makes getting the timing right on spring applications more challenging. And although using the right herbicide rates for cover crop termination is important, Gibson says that weather conditions are equally — if not more — important than herbicide rates in getting adequate control.

“Under the wrong set of weather conditions, you can double the herbicide rate and not see any difference in control,” Gibson says.

Temperatures should be at least in the mid-50s when you are making herbicide applications. Gibson also recommends spraying when temperatures are climbing rather than in the mid-to-late afternoon, when temperatures are on the descent.  

Work closely with your crop protection retailer and local Corteva Agriscience representative to determine when and how to terminate cover crops successfully this spring.