Friday, July 25, 2014

Cover Crop Cocktail - That Stuff Really Seems To Grow

It's exciting times around the farm because I planted some grass (along with some other stuff) and now I'm watching it grow.

I planted this small test plot of a cover crop cocktail back on June 4, we had almost ideal growing conditions with plenty of rain right after planting and temperatures just under 100, and by June 27 when I posted an update on how it was growing it had grown to about 24 inches tall and my "cocktail" seemed to be mainly sorghum-sudangrass with some blackeyed peas.  I've grown sorghum-sudangrass before and knew that it grew relatively quick, so I expected that I would get that amount of growth in that amount of time.

Today, about 50 days after planting, the sorghum-sudangrass is somewhere around 6-7 feet tall, the blackeyed peas are almost 3 feet tall and look healthy, I can finally easily see a few corn plants here and there, the okra seems to having some trouble growing and is pretty short, the sunflowers and soybeans seem to be a complete failure (probably a seed problem), and I also have some weeds and crabgrass.  Overall, I wouldn't have guessed that I could get that much growth in that short a period of time, or that just 5 lb. of sorghum-sudangrass per acre would be that thick.

Without some soil tests, it's hard to know if the fertility is significantly higher in this test plot compared to any of the cropland, but I'd guess that it's not that far off (although I've spread biochar in this test plot, and some compost years ago).  I'd be surprised if I didn't get similar results if I planted this cover crop cocktail on my cropland.

If I hadn't taken these pictures, I don't think I would be as impressed with the amount of growth, both pictures were taken from the same spot, the first picture was taken on June 27, and the second picture was taken on July 25.  
BEFORE - June 27 - 24" tall
50 days after planting - July 25 - 6-7' tall
My marked stake out in the middle of the plot was way too short and was over grown pretty quick, so I took another picture from the side with a pitchfork as my measurement of scale.  Ignore all the squash growing by the pitchfork, that isn't part of the cover crop, but it has gotten me wondering if I'm seeing better squash growth there due to the cover crop and/or shading.

Diving into the jungle to take a picture, the corn has finally been recognizable in the mixture, although I'll be surprised if it makes an ear.  I can see blackeyed peas climbing up the sorghum-sudangrass, there are a few sickly looking sunflowers and okra, some crabgrass, and some weeds.

I can't see any wheat, canola, or crimson clover growing, although I wouldn't expect to see them yet anyway.  I'm hoping that as fall gets closer and the warm season plants start to mature and winter kill that the cool season plants will start growing like most of what I've read about these cocktails claims will happen.  Stay tuned for another exciting edge-of-your-seat update sometime this fall on that subject.

At this point, from what I'm seeing I believe that planting something like this on a larger scale would definitely work to both feed my cattle and improve my cropland at the same time.  I also have a few new ideas about how I would change this mixture on a larger scale.  

Reading about something is one thing, actually doing something is an entirely different animal.


  1. As fast as it is growing, I wouldn't take a nap out there or you might never wake up from it. It certainly looks like an Oklahoma jungle!

  2. It is looking like an Oklahoma jungle!

  3. I don't know if I'd want any cows that were close to calving grazing in one of these fields, you might not find the calf until it was time to wean it.