OSU Extension specialists Mark Sulc, Harold Watters, and Alexander Lindsay provide the following information and recommendations for producers considering a fall cover crop:
Grass species, like oats or ryegrass, are typically fast to establish and can provide soil coverage to reduce erosion. Some species (like oats) will typically winterkill, whereas other species are hardier and may require termination in the spring before or shortly after planting. Additionally, some grass species may be alternate hosts for some corn pests (fungal diseases, nematodes) and may not be the best choice to follow wheat and precede corn in the rotation.
Some legume species, (like vetches and crimson clover), may be able to tolerate August weather if temperatures stay on the cooler side of average. These species could provide Nitrogen to corn next year if inoculated with rhizobia prior to planting, but may serve as an alternate host for soybean cyst nematode and should be avoided if soybeans are planned for next year. Other legumes (most other clovers) are poor hosts for soybean cyst nematode and could be a better option if rotating to soybean. Field pea may be another option as a legume, but if seeded in August it may not overwinter as compared to a mid-September seeding.
Brassica species (like tillage radish) when seeded early, produce a lot of growth and help reduce winter annual weed populations. The large taproots help aerate the soil. Because precipitation and temperatures can be variable this time of year, the use of a cover crop mixture may be advantageous to ensure at least one species succeeds in establishing in the field. For more information about different cover crops and planting methods, be sure to see Chapter 10 – Considerations for Using Cover Crops in the 15th edition of the Ohio Agronomy Guide Bulletin 472 available through the Wayne County Extension office.
Cover crops after winter wheat can also be a source of forage for producers with livestock. Excellent options for August to early September plantings include oat, spring triticale, Italian ryegrass, forage brassicas (early August plantings and for grazing only). Be aware that Italian ryegrass can become a weed problem in grain crop rotations, so it may not be desirable where grain production is the main objective for the land.
For more details including planting dates, planting rates, and expected forage yield and quality parameters for forage cover crops, refer to “Short Season Forages to Fill Supply Gaps for Dairy Farms”, DIBS 31-16 by Ohio State University Extension, available at https://dairy.osu.edu/dibs , then scroll down to the Feeding Management heading. The Annual Forages section of the Ohio Agronomy Guide referred to above contains more information on annual short-season forages.