The use of a cover crop is essential in preventing this growth-limiting condition for corn and small grain.

Senior Agronomist for Legend Seeds, Matt Hubsch, encourages growers across the Midwest to act now to prevent potential problems from Fallow Syndrome in 2014. The 2013 growing season has certainly posed its share of challenges and Hubsch cautions growers against leaving acres unplanted or not following a wheat harvest with a cover crop.

Fallow Syndrome occurs when the population of vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae (VAM) is reduced. This reduction is common when non-host crops or fallow precede corn in the rotation. VAM colonize the root and assist in nutrient uptake of key elements like phosphorus and zinc. Planting a cover crop supports beneficial bacteria and fungi, and traps any anions that may leach nitrates, sulfates, borates, these can be utilized by the following season’s crop.

Hubsch suggests a cover crop mix that includes brassicas, legumes and grasses. Cover crop mixes with brassicas such as turnips and radishes are great for breaking hard pan and catching nitrates, sulfates and borates, but these are not the best to support beneficial fungi. So adding a grass crop like oats or millets will better support these fungi. Legumes, such as vetch, peas or even conventional soybeans are extremely beneficial to vital bacteria in the soil and may also positively impact certain fungi.