Forages

Specialty Products

Hairy Vetch

Production Practices

Hairy Vetch has been successfully grown as a winter annual cover crop in many locations throughout the U.S. Being a winter annual, Hairy Vetch is usually seeded in the late summer or early fall. It then overwinters in a dormant stage and regrows the following spring. Because of this winter annual growth habit, Hairy Vetch can be used as a "green manure" cover crop without sacrificing production of a cash crop during that year. Benefits attributed to Hairy Vetch include adding to soil organic matter, controlling soil erosion, providing "sink" for nitrates that would be otherwise lost in the late fall and early spring and contributing biologically-fixed nitrogen to subsequent non-legume crops. Reports from research in other areas have documented nitrogen production by Hairy Vetch of up to 350 lbs. N / acre.

Only limited research with Hairy Vetch has been conducted in Michigan but results are promising. In one study at the Kellog Biological Station (Barclay and Hesterman), Hairy Vetch interseeded into either corn or soybeans in late July produced 1,960 and 1,525 pounds / acre dry matter and 59 and 46 pounds / acre nitrogen, respectively, by the following spring. In most cases, corn planted following the interseeded Hairy Vetch responded positively to the nitrogen from the Vetch.

From this limited research we have preliminary recommendation for farmers who are considering Hairy Vetch as a cover crop.

Seeding Date

Earlier seems to be better. Our seeding date study suggests that planting in mid-July is best and that as planting is delayed, both dry matter and nitrogen production are decreased (Table 1).

Seeding Rate

In our preliminary seeding rate study, as seeding rate was increased from 10 to 40 pounds / acre, both dry matter and nitrogen production also increased (Table 2). Forty pounds may be overkill, but at least 25-30 pounds / acre are probably necessary for a good stand when Hairy Vetch is seeded alone.

Companion Crops

Hairy Vetch  can be seeded with other non-legume cover crops to increase biomass production and to provide some protection for the vetch from winterkill if it experiences a severe winter. The mixes that we are testing, all of which were recommended by farmers who have successfully grown them are:

1. Hairy Vetch @ 30 lbs / acre + Oats @ 46 lbs / acre

2. Hairy Vetch @ 30 lbs / acre + Rye @ 33 lbs / acre

3. Hairy Vetch @ 30 lbs / acre + Oats @ 23 lbs / acre + Rye

@ 16 lbs / acre

Observations indicate that rye will be somewhat more competitive with the Hairy Vetch in the spring compared to the competition provided by oats.

Seeding Method

If you are seeding Hairy Vetch into a standing crop, your alternatives are either aerial seeding or broadcasting from a high-boy tractor (that's how research plots are seeded). There has been adequate germination when seed is spread on top of the soil, although soil moisture and timing of rain will greatly influence success. If you are seeding into a clean field (perhaps following small grain harvest) drilling seems to work well.

Nitrogen

Table 1. Effect of seeding date of dry matter and nitrogen production of Hairy Vetch, measured in fall, 1989.

Dry Matter Yield

Date

Concentration

Seeding Rate

Shoots

Roots

Total Shoots

Roots Total

 
 

(lbs. / acre)

 

lbs. / acre

-----%-----

July 17,89

138

3813

357

4170

3.4

2.3

July 31,89

133

3288

451

3918

3.7

2.6

Aug 14,89

89

2684

330

3014

3.0

2.7

Aug 29,89

24

379

163

542

5.7

1.6

Sept 12,89

3

51

22

73

4.4

1.2

Table 2. Effect of seeding rate on dry matter and nitrogen production of Hairy Vetch, measured in fall, 1989.

Dry Matter Yield

Concentration

Seeding Rate

Shoots

Roots

Total Shoots

Roots Total

 

(lbs. / acre)

 

lbs. / acre

-----%-----

10

 

2210

346

2556

3.5

2.3

85

       

20

 

2804

487

3291

3.5

2.4

110

       

30

 

3002

626

3628

3.4

2.3

116

       

40

 

3243

699

3942

3.8

2.3

139

       
















 

 

 

Copyright © 2009 Corland Seeds Ltd. All rights reserved.