When corn silage is harvested in the fall, the entire plant is removed, leaving the soil exposed through the winter. Many farmers have started to plant cover crops following corn harvest because of the multitude of benefits cover cropping brings to soil health and fertility. The cover crop protects the soil from erosion, adds organic matter, and also scavenges excess soil nitrogen (N), releasing it again after being terminated in the spring. This keeps the nitrogen from potentially being lost through leaching, which, in addition to the soil benefits, provides a financial benefit to farmers – less nitrogen loss means less fertilizer needed in the spring. Farmers have asked about best practices for growing cover crops to maximize benefit to the soil, while protecting corn silage yield and quality. In particular, establishing a “last chance” planting date for cover crops is important in our region where the growing season is short and common adverse fall weather can delay planting. This study was intended to determine what planting dates and which seeding rates give the best cover crop performance into the spring.


Vermont, University of Vermont

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