cover crop for alfalfa/grass

Asked June 30, 2017, 12:41 AM EDT

We are going to plant a field back to alfalfa/brome grass. I'm thinking of doing it late July and am thinking of using winter wheat, rye, tritacale, hairy vetch or a combination to plant with the alfalfa and grass. Is this any good, will it work? Or is there something better that would work?

Crook County Wyoming cover crops

1 Response

Is this on dryland or irrigated ground? In general, planting late summer/early fall has some benefits as there is usually less competition from weeds this time of year, but there is also risk in not having sufficient soil moisture available to get a good stand of forage to establish. Spring planting is less risky for having sufficient moisture available. As far as planting your alfalfa/grass with a companion crop; late summer/early fall is not recommended because the companion crops (winter wheat, rye, triticale, etc) will out-compete the alfalfa/grass for available moisture. Planting forages with companion crops is a more commonly used practice in the spring and has some benefits (erosion control, weed control, a crop in year 1, etc.) but also might lead to less dense stands of hay down the road because of the added competition. Oats is a very common companion crop because it is less competitive than other annuals. Weighing the cost/benefit of using companion crops depends on your situation (what's your erosion potential, weed potential, and need for a crop in year 1, etc.??). Here is a link to an article that discusses this in more detail. I encourage you to read it, as it is difficult to fully explain in this format.