Sunn Hemp (Crotalaria juncea), a species unrelated to the marijuana plant sometimes also called hemp, is a tropical plant used in Africa, Asia and South America for animal forage, soil improvement and fiber production. In North America Sunn Hemp is a warm season nitrogen-producing legume that reduces nematode populations and adds organic biomass to improve soil quality when used as a cover crop.
Agricultural seed company Cover Crop Solutions LLC has launched its new Tillage Sunn™ brand of Sunn Hemp seed, which in recent years has been scarce and expensive due to an imbalance of supply and demand. Tillage Sunn is now widely available, with dealers already scrambling to keep up with orders for the ample but limited supply for 2013.
David Weaver, Cover Crop Solutions CEO, is enthusiastic about the product’s potential benefit for North American farmers. "Tillage Sunn is our brand name for Sunn Hemp. As one of the few warm season legumes on the market, Tillage Sunn is a powerful management tool for farmers with many benefits."
Planted after cash crop harvest in most cases, Tillage Sunn grows rapidly and within 60 days adds significant nitrogen plus approximately two and a half tons of biomass. It is a also a good alternative for planting ‘prevent acres,’ farmland damaged by flood or drought.
Steve Groff is a partner in the company, as well as a long time farmer and cover crop innovator. He added, "The problem of nematodes in cash crops is well known. In a worst-case scenario they can dramatically reduce cash crop yields if left unchecked. USDA research and farmer experience tell us that Sunn Hemp is highly effective at reducing nematode populations."
The fast growing plant can reach 10′ or more if planted in late spring. It can be planted anytime after the last average frost date, and up until eight weeks before the first average frost date, allowing for a 60 day growth period. Freezing temperatures kill Tillage Sunn.
Groff added, "Tillage Sunn is an extremely fast grower. If planted immediately after corn silage harvest in South, it will compete vigorously with pigweed."
Tillage Sunn should be terminated at first flower. This achieves maximum benefit and prevents stalks from becoming too fibrous. Some farmers use a roller to form a dense mat of stalks and foliage that protects the soil surface from crusting under rainfall and allow moisture to penetrate the root zone. The mat biodegrades over winter while helping keep soil temperatures moderated. Nitrogen produced during Tillage Sunn growth cycle is released to cash crops that follow.
Tillage Sunn tolerates dry conditions and helps restore soil biology following flood or drought. Tillage Sunn can be planted as a mix along with Tillage Radish® and Sorghum Sudan Grass.
More information at TillageSunn.com and CoverCropSolutions.com.