In the last two weeks hail and high winds have damaged corn and soybean fields in areas throughout the state, leaving growers to consider how best to use what’s left of their crop. Corn stalks and bean stubble are some of our least expensive winter feeds, but once cattle are finished eating the grain and husks or licking up the pods, what remains isn’t very good.
Some growers have improved both the quality and quantity of feed from these fields by flying on turnip or rye seed in August. When successful, turnip or rye plants provide more grazing days and extra protein when residues become poor quality.
However, establishing a good stand of either turnips or rye in growing corn or beans can be challenging.
Several factors can limit success.
- Moisture. In dryland crops moisture may be limited and in surface irrigated fields it may be difficult to manage. Even under pivots, providing water for rye or turnips without slowing corn or bean harvest takes careful planning as usually about three irrigations are needed to be successful.
- Dense Crop Canopy. Irrigated fields can be especially thick, preventing adequate light from reaching new seedlings. (This may be less of a problem this year in hail-damaged fields where plants have been partially or fully defoliated.) Chopping silage or harvesting grain early helps. Seeding when beans start to drop leaves has been most successful.
- Herbicide carryover. Turnips are very sensitive to herbicides, but rye also can be affected.
- Wheel traffic at harvest. Turnips are damaged more than rye, but both lose stand if fields get muddy.