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

    Proposal summary:

    VanTilburg Farms (“VTF”) is a 4,000-acre farm and retail farm business. VTF supplies local farms with organic fertilizer, commercial fertilizer, custom spraying service, and cover crop seeding in growing crops with a high boy type seeder. VTF has been experimenting with cover crops on its own farm since 2005 and with customers since 2010. Matt VanTilburg, Certified Crop Advisor, is head of the farming and retail side of the business and is a graduate of Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute in Ag Commerce. He has managed the operation since 2000. Matt has been working with Joe Beiler (see below) since 2005 to develop a cover cropping system for use in a corn/soybean rotation. He has spoken on his experiences at the Conservation Tillage Conference (“CTC”) in Ada, Ohio; Dave Brant’s Ohio Field Day; and at the Effective Cover Cropping in the Midwest Conference held in Illinois on Dec. 7 and 8, 2011. VTF’s goal is to move to all no-till system and use cover crops to improve soil structure, as compaction has been the limiting factor in their crop yields. The farm has over 200 acres of buffer strips and wet lands and continues to add more conservation acreage as more landlords see the advantages of buffer strips and wildlife areas.

    Joe Beiler, an employee who will be leading the grant, is a retired OSU Ag Extension Agent here in Mercer County, Ohio. He has worked for VTF since 2005 coordinating plot work, brokering poultry litter, and experimenting with cover crops. Joe has a Masters Degree from OSU and has coordinated over $300,000 in grants while an OSU Extension employee. He has also spoken at the CTC on utilizing litter and at several local cover crop field days.

    Stose Brothers (6974 Mercer Road, Mendon, OH 45862) is a local farm of over 2,000 acres which uses a corn and soybean rotation. They have some experience using annual rye grass and radishes in cover cropping and they are interested in determining the best mix of plants for a corn and soybean rotation. All their fields are presently conventionally tilled and are in the process of moving to a no-till system.

    D & L Farms Lynn Fiechter and sons are farmers in Wells County, Indiana, just west of VTF’s location in Mercer County, Ohio. They are family farm farming 4000 acres. Their goal is to be able to make better use of a neighboring dairyman’s excess manure and to improve soil tilth.

    The VTF and Stose Brothers farms are in the Maumee-Lake Erie watershed and the Fiechter farm is in the Wabash watershed. These are impaired watersheds and the planting of cover crops is one significant way of improving water quality in watersheds.

    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 harvest limits the species of cover crops that can be planted that late in fall. At present most of the cover crops seeded are clover, annual rye grass, or cereal rye grass and 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.

    To develop the mixes the Green Cover Seed Smart Mix Calculator, available on the web, would be used.

    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.