This has been the hottest and driest year 30-year-old Russell Hedrick has faced in his four years of full-time farming. As his corn neared the dent state, Hedrick had only received four inches of rain. Without cover crops, he said his corn and soybeans wouldn’t be worth harvesting.
Drought has devastated North Carolina’s Piedmont region this year, and many farmers called their crop insurance agents because their soybeans and corn weren’t worth harvesting. But a combination of no-till and multi-species cover crops, Hedrick is shooting for 110 bushels per acre in corn, a good yield in a drought year.
Last year, when moisture was adequate, Hedrick was able to produce 224 bushels of corn per acre. Still, it is this year when cover crops and no-till have really shined, he said.
Cover crops are a tool, just like no-till, and, Hedrick explains, the two must work together. An important key is the mixed species blend of five different plants: cereal rye, triticale, oats, crimson clover and tillage radishes that helps build soil nutrients, moisture and increased organic matter.