The Northwest Crops & Soils Program initiated a trial in Alburgh, VT to assess the potential for using annual ryegrass, oats, and winter peas as cover crops in Vermont. These species have not been commonly grown as cover crops in the region because they require an earlier establishment date compared to that of winter rye. Farmers are interested in finding alternative cover crops that may provide additional benefits over the standard practice. As an example, incorporating winter peas, a legume, would provide a nitrogen fixing cover crop to the system. Annual ryegrass may provide better soil cover and easier to manage levels of biomass in the spring compared to winter rye. Farmers are interested in oats as they would winter kill and hence, reduce the need for spring biomass management. In addition, these crops may provide a farm with an alternative feed source in the fall or early spring. To be successful with these alternative cover crops, it is important to know the proper planting date to provide the intended benefits. It is also essential to document if annual ryegrass and winter pea will survive the winter conditions of the region. Preliminary data collected in 2013 suggested that annual ryegrass must be planted earlier than winter grains to survive the winter. Only 8-11% of annual ryegrass planted in late September and/or mid-October survived the winter of 2013. Cover crop biomasses, percent soil cover, height, and forage quality of 2 varieties of winter peas, 3 varieties of annual ryegrass, and oats (Figure 1) were evaluated in 2014. Winter survival will be determined in the spring of 2015.


Vermont, University of Vermont

Publication Date