EM071 High Residue Farming Under Irrigation: What and Why provides an overview of high residue farming (HRF), including its benefits and challenges. It also discusses some special considerations for high residue farming in the irrigated agriculture regions of the far western United States.
In a 2013 on-farm trial, we evaluated cover crop species for their ability to germinate and grow when overseeded in late summer into a corn crop. Here are the main conclusions:
There are many cover crop species that will germinate well when overseeded into standing corn in the Columbia Basin. However, most do not do well when shaded more than 2-3 weeks.
Planting 2-3 weeks before harvest may improve plant survival, although crushing by harvest equipment can then become a problem. This is in agreement with Midwest recommendations to plant 2-3 weeks before silage harvest, or for grain harvest, when corn plant is dried to the ear. However, in contrast to the Midwest, we generally field dry grain corn, and so following the latter timing would allow very little growing time for cover crops after grain harvest. This makes overseeding cover crops into corn being harvested for dry grain impractical.
The short growing season after corn harvest, even after earlier harvested high moisture corn, probably rules out using warm season and slower growing species, like legumes, as overseeded cover crops, unless they can overwinter AND are allowed to grow to at least early May the following year.
Starter fertilizer is necessary for high corn yields at our Northern latitude, and especially with high residue farming systems. A common way to apply dry starter fertilizers has been the 2×2 method, two inches off the row and two inches below the seed. However, recent research has found that surface banding of liquid fertilizer, 2″ off the row, can be just as effective. Surface banding eliminates the need for an extra set of openers, allows greater residue levels and reduces required planter weight. It also allows greater fertilizer rates than popup methods (with the seed).
I have talked to several growers who are concerned about how cold springs have reduced their strip-tilled corn yields when compared to corn with full width clean tillage. While we can hope for average spring temperatures, there are a few other things that should be considered.