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Adding Cover Crops to Your Farm? Consider the Herbicide Rotation Restrictions

Darcy Telenko, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

December 19, 2016

Adding Cover Crops to Your Farm? Consider the Herbicide Rotation Restrictions
Many of our vegetable farms have begun utilizing cover crops on their farm to improve soil health (organic matter and soil structure); nitrogen production; soil microbial activity; weed, disease and pest suppression; and soil and water conservation. When identifying the best cover crop to plant on your farm there are a number of considerations such as the main goal for utilizing the cover crop, when and where they will be used in the rotation, and management practices for the cover crop that need to be implemented to achieve the best results.

One challenge to adding cover crops to your vegetable production system is that herbicides with residual activity may interfere with cover crop establishment and growth. Residual herbicides are a key management tool in vegetable production, especially for management of difficult weeds and their potential to help control herbicide-resistant weeds. Some questions to consider when utilizing a cover crop and how well it will work with an herbicide program include:
  • Will the cover crop be grazed or harvest for feed or forage? If yes, then the rotation restriction on the label must be followed to protect the food chain from pesticide residues and/or crop from injury. If a crop is not on the label, then the rotation restriction for "other crops" must be followed.
  • How sensitive is the cover crop to herbicide carryover? Research has found that radish seems to be one of the most sensitive crops, while cereal rye and hairy vetch were the least. Residual herbicides with grass activity can interfere with establishment of some grass cover crops, while others can interfere with some broadleaf cover crops species. So it will all depend on the herbicide used and cover crop species being planted. 
  • How long can I expect the herbicide to remain active in the soil? There is great variability on persistence of herbicides in the soil, many labels will contain specific rotation restrictions. Herbicides with soil activity and a relatively long half-life include: Atrazine (60 days), Stinger (40 days), Pursuit (60-90 days) are a few examples.
  • When was the herbicide applied and when do I plan to seed the cover crop? Much research has been conducted on residual herbicides and fall-seeded cover crop. It is expected that the longer the time period between herbicide application and cover crop seeding the lower the risk to injury, but we may see a greater need of understanding our herbicide programs a may play an important role as we see changes in when cover crops are being seeded.
  • Should I increase my cover crop seeding rate? Higher seeding rates may be an option if there is marginal sensitivity to the herbicide - but there's not guarantee it will result in a higher stand of the cover crop and can lead to higher cover crops costs. 
  • Can I use a postemergence herbicide after interseeding my cover crop? To minimize risk, only select herbicides that have crop and cover crop on herbicide label and follow application restrictions listed on label such as crop and weed sizes. 
To help answer some of these we have created a table for guidance on the "Commonly used herbicides on vegetables in New York and rotation considerations for cover crops." 

Sources: "Common Corn and Soybean Herbicides, Estimated Half-Lives, Cash Crop Restrictions and Their Potential to Injure Fall Cover Crops", Penn State Extension, Curran and Lingenfelter, 2012, available at: http://extension.psu.edu/plants/crops/soilmanagement/cover-crops/herbicidepersistence/herbicide-carryover-table

"Managing risk when using herbicides and cover crops in corn and soybean" Lizabeth Stahl, Extension Educator - Crops https://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/weeds/herbicides/docs/cover-crops-and-herbicides.pdf



Common Herbicides on Vegetables in NY and Considerations for Cover Crops, 8.5x11 (pdf; 436KB)

Common Herbicides on NY Vegetables and Considerations for Cover Crops, 11x17 (pdf; 385KB)

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Asparagus

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Cabbage

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Cauliflower

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Eggplant

Eggplant

Ethnic Vegetables

Ethnic Vegetables

Garlic

Garlic

Horseradish

Horseradish

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Leeks

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Melons

Melons

Onions

Onions

Parsnips

Parsnips

Peas

Peas

Peppers

Peppers

Potatoes

Potatoes

Pumpkins / Gourds

Pumpkins / Gourds

Radishes

Radishes

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rutabaga

Rutabaga

Snap Beans

Snap Beans

Squash - Summer

Squash - Summer

Squash- Winter

Squash- Winter

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

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Tomatoes

Tomatoes

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Upcoming Events

2021 Oswego County Onion Growers Twilight Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

June 24, 2021
Hannibal, NY

It's going to be a Weed Control Extravaganza at this year's Oswego County Onion Growers Twilight Meeting! Bring weed samples for identification. 2.25 DEC recertification credits will be available (categories 1A, 10 and 23). CCA credits will also be available. This meeting is being organized by Oswego County Vegetable Growers and Improvement Association and CCE Cornell Vegetable Program.

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Announcements

Herbicide Charts for Vegetable Crops Available

The Cornell Vegetable Program has compiled herbicide charts for control of weeds in the following crops in New York in 2021: table beets and peas. While these reference charts are handy, it is critical to read the labels thoroughly. 

Eastern Broccoli Market Opportunity Assessment

Is there an opportunity for New York growers and marketers to invest in broccoli production and distribution as a way to diversify and strengthen their businesses, while adding jobs, dollars, and resilience to the economy and rural communities?

The Eastern Broccoli Market Opportunity Assessment for New York State sought to answer this very question. The study was made possible by the initiative of three partner organizations: Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation, Red Tomato, and the Eastern Broccoli Project, with funding provided by Empire State Development.


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