Be Ye Prepared.
I constantly get the impression and message that if we are to successfully sow a summer cover crop cocktail mix in our Mediterranean summers, we need to make the most of the various rainfall events. The reasons include (but are not limited to): 1. making the most of moisture before it evaporates, for both germination, and simply growing biomass.
2. Beating the weeds.
3. Making the most of Time before the next cash crop.
This means dry sowing straight after the crop is harvested, ASAP. Pay for labour if you need to. Do it dry if you have to. It also benefits to have SRR (surface residue retained) to keep the soil moist, for the above reasons (success breeds success).
MAKING the most of RAIN
So, what does the picture have to do with cover cropping? Well, that is the map snapshot (one of my favourite weather websites) of the most continuous lightning storms in my memory. (Green = rain, white = individual lightning strikes). I was harvesting until it reached me, and luckily I finished a patch and went home as it started to rain. 2mm of rain didn’t stop me starting again the next day. 3 miles south of me, however, had 10mm rain, and further still had 50mm. SUCH is the nature of thunderstorms – when forecasted for here, it can mean from no rain to 5 inches. (Which also touches on the benefits of SRR re rainfall damage, and rapid water infiltration via good soil structure, but enough about that…) And such is the nature of our summer rainfall averages – perfect hot dry summers interrupted by occasional freak thunderstorms.
SOW or REAP?
The point is, while I went harvesting yesterday, neighbours could have polished their boats while waiting for the ground to dry up. IF I was going to wait for harvest to finish before going sowing again, I would potentially be missing out on the parts of the farm which could be germinating a cover crop mix now. And I would be torn with the dilemma of continuing harvest, or sowing. And even to sow a cover crop mix, I need to plan it well before hand – the mix per paddock/last crop, plan seed collation (or seed supplier), have innoculants ready, have the seeder ready, have labour ready, have ‘other sprays in one pass’ ready, have a mixer ready, be able to handle the cash costs. Allow for an early harvest (this year is 2 weeks ahead of the ‘usual’). Allow for the preperation time, as well as preparing for harvest. It is all management, all on top of the silly season of harvest – the tiredness, the headspin of logistics of harvesting and grain marketing/saving/delivering.
AND you might have to be prepared to be the local subject of discussion when you have an air seeder chasing around the header, in the same paddock, on the same day. (There is an online pic of a header and seeder in the same paddock somewhere…. can someone find it?)
“Fortune favours the brave” they say. If we are passionate about our work, crops, soil etc, we will cope with the extra management, and love it, and hopefully be rewarded.
The last picture is the rainfall map following the aforementioned thunderstorms (1 day). You never know where rain will fall.