By: Sarah Mitchell, Industrial Hemp Specialist

Cereal Rye is the “go to” cover crop. Farmers and agronomists agree, it’s a workhorse. Cereal rye starts quick and grows well. It anchors the soil, builds microbes and organic matter, facilitates nutrient availability, plus suppresses weeds in spring. However, Cereal Rye, a.k.a. Winter Rye, is just the start.

King’s AgriSeeds found that certain cover crops can do much more! Introducing “Forecrops.”

Cover crop mixtures, tailored to precede a specific economic crop, are called forecrops. King’s AgriSeeds wanted to find out if forecrops could reduce production costs of direct-sown hemp while positively influencing yield. The results of the 2020-21 trial showed that particular species mixtures outperform Cereal Rye in four categories: spring weed control, hemp seedling emergence, in-season hemp plant development, and overall yield.

The hemp forecrop trial was based on three planting periods: Late Summer, Early Fall, and Early Spring. Five different crops or species mixtures were planted in each period. AutoCBD™ hemp was planted in Spring using a vacuum plate seeder.

Hemp Yield Improved 24% – 34% with Summer, Fall Forecrops

The Late Summer forecrop mixtures improved yield by 24% over the unplanted control. In this period, Small Box Booster Mix and a new mixture called Construct tied for first place.

Early Fall forecrop mixtures gave the highest impact, a substantial 34% yield increase on average over the unplanted control. Hemp seedling emergence was strong. The plants grew steadily more robust during the season. The top forecrop contender was Wheat plus Small Box Booster Mix with a whopping 53% higher yield than the unplanted control. Soil Builder Plus, a long-time favorite for improving soil health, came in second place at 38% increase, followed by Cereal Rye.

Early Spring forecrops proved nearly equal to the unplanted control. It appears that forecrops need time and warm temperatures to significantly affect the soil and following crop. Cereal Rye was the exception. Planted in late March, rye gave an 8% increase in yield per plant. It inhibited early weed growth in our trial, but hemp seedling emergence may have been affected.

The Hemp Forecrop Trial showed that crop history matters. King’s AgriSeeds will evaluate the most promising mixtures again in 2022 to raise confidence in Forecrop recommendations for hemp.

For more information on the best forecrops for hemp, contact Sarah Mitchell at King’s AgriSeeds. Mobile: 717-327-6188 |  Email: [email protected]