Weather currently has harvest and cover crop planting at a standstill. Please find below the recommended cover crop seeding rates and planting practices for cover crops in Arkansas.
The planting window has closed for the successful establishment of mustards such as radish and turnips and cover crop planting considerations from this point forward should be focused on winter cereals and winter legumes. For most locations in Arkansas (except south of Pine Bluff- which the cutoff is Oct. 15th) October 1st is generally the cutoff for establishment of mustards.
Understanding the growth habit of various cover crops will help producers better understand why fall planting dates are so important for cover crop success.
For cool-season mustards such as radish and turnip the majority of their biomass production occurs in the fall between emergence and when they either go dormant or winterkill. This is especially true for the below-ground taproot growth. If and when these cover crops break dormancy in the spring, the majority of the biomass that is put on is related to flowering and seed production (a small portion of total plant biomass).
Canola which is a cool-season mustard is not recommended as a cover crop in Arkansas is one example of a mustard cover crop that can put on a significant amount of spring biomass after breaking dormancy. Additionally, the more fall growth/ the larger the taproot on cool-season mustards the more likely they are to winterkill.
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Winter cereals and winter legumes have a much different growth habit. The majority of the biomass associated with winter cereals and legumes occurs when they break dormancy in the spring and therefore fall planting dates are not nearly as critical.
Winter cereals and legumes can be planted much later in the fall as they tend to be more winter hardy and the bulk of their biomass (crucial component of cover crop success/benefits) occurs in the spring.
Planting considerations for winter cereals and legumes should be based on soil and environmental conditions. For most areas within the state of Arkansas winter cereals and legumes can be established until Nov. 1st (North of I-40) or Nov. 15th (South of I-40), but with this year’s cool and wet soil conditions successful establishment may be in jeopardy with each day that progresses from now on.
As with any crop the time and effort put into planning and establishment of cover crops will pay dividends in the benefits realized for the successive cash crop.