Determining what Multi species (8 or More) cover crop mixes perform well in a corn and soybean crop rotation

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $22,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: general grain crops


  • Soil Management: general soil management


    In 2013 and 2014, VanTilburg Farms Inc. seeded 3 corn and 3 soybean fields to cover crops using cocktail mixes of at least 8 different species of cover crop seeds. The mixes were made up from 26 different species to make up 13 different seed mixes. These were all seeded in growing corn at tasseling and in growing beans, just before turning yellow. The same fields were used both years and were seeded the same each year: corn was planted one year and beans the next.

    2013 was a very dry summer and planting was done in mid-August for corn and first week of September for beans. Results were poor, as the first sufficient rain was not until September 20. An early cold snap terminated the winter kill species early.

    2014 was a very good growing season with corn tasseling in mid-July and beans growing into mid-September. Two of the three corn fields were seeded before tasseling and the third, right after tasseling. Soybeans were seeded in mid-September in an excellent stand of still green beans. Soybeans were late maturing due to plentiful moisture.


    Adequate research and information is available on multi species cover crop mixes planted after wheat harvest. Many species mixes have been used after wheat. The amount of field-based research available for multi-species (8 or more) mixes for use in a strictly corn/soybean rotation is limited. Planting cover crops after corn and soybean harvests, limits the species of cover crops that can be planted that late in the fall. At present, most of the cover crops seeded are: clover, annual rye grass, cereal rye grass or tillage radishes after harvest. By planting in growing corn and soybeans in mid to late August, the mix of species is expanded and improves the mix of species growing year round to improve soil health and tilth. Cover crop mixes after corn and beans with 8 to 12 species have not been reported. This could be accomplished by using either aerial seeding or seeding by using a highboy designed to seed cover crops in growing corn and beans.

    The design of this project is to use a highboy seeder to seed 3 different cover crop mixes in 3 different corn and bean fields in 2013 and repeat in 2014 in the same fields. This would provide 2 years of data using different species mixes in corn going to beans and beans going to corn. Each field would be approximately 40 acres making this a field-sized demonstration. The 3 farms would exhibit different management practices and fertility.

    Project objectives:

    Many cover croppers promote the value of a cocktail mix of 8-10 species drilled after wheat. The design of this project was to see if the same benefits could be achieved by using VTF’S highboy seeder in growing corn and beans to get a similar benefit from the mixes. Forty acre fields were seeded with 3 different mixes, using a cover crop seeder designed and built by VTF. Some questions to be answered were the following. With 8 different seeds and different seed size, could even seed distribution be achieved across the field? What species would grow being dropped on top of ground? How early could cover crops be seeded in corn and sprout without dying due to lack of sunlight? How much additional growth could be achieved as compared to seeding with a drill after harvest?

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.