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Sunn Hemp As A Cover Crop
From Texas to Canada, Sunn hemp can be a great way to build nitrogen reserves. In southern states, it can be a fast way to produce forage. And tough conditions don’t bother it. According to South Dakota’s Millborn Seed, the tropical legume thrives in high heat, low fertility and sandy soil. As to the name, it is no relation to cannabis.
“We are too far north for it to be a viable forage crop on its own, but it has real potential when it comes to fixing N,” says Alex Guttormsson, Millborn Seeds. “The biggest challenge is the soil should be warmed to 65 degrees before planting. Then, it has to be in the ground and frost free for 60 days to really contribute N.”
Guttormsson notes that it was a popular choice in a cover crop seed mix for Prevent Plant acres this year in his part of South Dakota.
“It’s the only warm-season legume we have in our cover crop mixes,” he says. “Once it gets growing, it’s relatively drought resistant. We were wet early, and then the rain turned off, but the Sunn hemp just kept growing.”
While Sunn hemp can be cut for forage, he suggests doing so before it gets too mature, as the stem is tough to dry down.
“The stem-to-leaf ratio is not the best; however, if chopped with another high-leaf ratio crop like sorghum-sudangrass, it can make a nice feed,” adds Guttormsson.
Millborn Seeds’ recommendation is to cut at first flower to avoid developing fibrous stalks. Marshall Crouch, East Texas Seed Company, agrees. “I’m hearing good reports about growers making good hay out of it, but you have to cut it early before it gets too rank,” he says. “For people who need forage, it grows really fast.”
Harley Naumann, assistant professor, University of Missouri, endorses Sunn hemp as a good complement to cool season forage. He notes that in addition to other benefits, it can produce 60 in. of growth in 60 days. It also has rapid regrowth in rotational systems, producing more biomass after grazing or cutting.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Millborn Seeds, 2132 32nd Ave., Brookings, S.D. 57006 (ph 605-697-6306; toll-free 888-498-7333; info@millbornseeds.com; www.millbornseeds.com).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #6