Cover crops, herbicides and using some caution

Vince Davis, UW-Extension agronomist
Department of Agronomy
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
vmdavis@wisc.edu
(608) 262-1392

Is it legal to use a cover crop as a forage crop? Maybe not…Vince Davis explains herbicide labels, cover crops and forage crops and what growers should know.

3:06 – Total Time

0:18 – Situation with cover crops and herbicides
0:38 – Difference between cover crops and forage crops
0:55 – Examples of when this happens
1:12 – Herbicide choice and cover crops
1:38 – Possible consequences
1:50 – Advice for growers
2:11 – Importance at this time
2:43 – Why growers use cover crops
2:57 – Lead out
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TRANSCRIPT
Sevie Kenyon: Tell us, in a nutshell, what the situation is with cover crops and herbicides?

Vince Davis: Well, in a nutshell, a lot of people are interested in harvesting cover crops this year as a forage crop. There’s quite an important distinction as to whether those cover crops are left in the field or harvested for a forage.

Sevie Kenyon: Vince, maybe you can explain the difference a cover crop and harvesting a forage crop.

Vince Davis: A cover crop is a crop planted that is not harvested but only grown for environmental benefits and all of the crop residue stays in the field but as soon as the crop residue, or biomass, is removed from the field to be fed, it is then considered a forage crop.

Sevie Kenyon: Can you give us an example of that?

Vince Davis:  A lot of growers are interested in cover crops like rye or wheat or even buckwheat and they want to be able to harvest those as a forage feed because they’re short on forage because of the drought this year.

Sevie Kenyon: Can you explain to us how the herbicide and cover crop choice come into play?

Vince Davis: Well, how it comes into play is herbicides labels that are used in our traditional corn and soybean systems all have restrictions on when crops can be planted following the use of those herbicides in those systems. Once that cover crop is harvested it’s considered a forage crop and, therefore, restrictions on a label need to be followed.

Sevie Kenyon: Vince, what are some of the potential consequences?

Vince Davis: Some of the potential consequences could be actually herbicide residues that come back into the food chain and into meat or milk products.

Sevie Kenyon: Can you give producers some advice?

Vince Davis: The biggest advice is to make certain growers know what herbicides, and all pesticides, have been used in their corn and soybean systems and that they follow the label for rotational restrictions of those products before they harvest a succeeding crop for a forage.

Sevie Kenyon: Vince, why is this suddenly important now?

Vince Davis: Well this is now important because the interest is obviously increased due to the drought but also the USDA is trying to help growers by lifting other restrictions to use these cover crops as forage crops; like their crop insurance and also allowing payments to establish these cover crops to be used as a forage. But we just need to realize that doesn’t supersede the restrictions of the herbicides that have been used in their corn and soybean systems.

Sevie Kenyon: Vince, maybe you can explain for us why farmers use cover crops?

Vince Davis: Traditionally, farmers have been using cover crops for environmental benefits like reducing soil erosion and recycling nutrients better and even potentially for some weed control practices.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Vince Davis, Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

More information about this topic can be found here.

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