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Broadleaf Crops


Hans Kandel NDSU Extension Agronomist e-mail Hans.Kandel at

North Dakota producers can grow various broadleaf crops. The main broadleaf crops are soybean, canola, sunflower, field pea, dry bean, sugarbeet, potatoes, flax, lentil, chickpea and several other crops.

crops planted


A 4 year study was completed in which farmers provides their production information for a total of 1100 soybean fields from four seasons (2014-2017) including the final yield.

Conclusions based on the grower survey data

  1. Growing soybean after corn resulted in about 5 bushel higher yield compared to growing soybean after soybean. Crop rotation is important.
  2. An established soybean plant stand of 150,000 plants per acre is recommended.
  3. On average, 12.3% of planted seeds did not result in an established soybean plant.
  4. Planting soybean before mid-May, if conditions are favorable, provided the highest soybean yields. Delaying planting, between May 1 and June 1, based on 2014 to 2017 data, resulted in an average reduction of 0.35 bushel per acre per day.
  5. Selecting the latest maturing soybean adapted for your growing region may increase yields.
  6. Row spacing 15-22 inch provided higher yields compared with 30 inch, during the period 2014 to 2017.
  7. Seed treatments resulted in higher yields.
  8. There is a difference in yield response with different seed treatments.
  9. There is a positive relationship between higher established plants per acre and soil cover by the soybean crop.
  10. Between early season stand establishment and the end of the season soybean population, 6.3% of the soybean plants died.


Cover Crops

There are many options for cover crops on the farm. The first option is to use a species in the grass family (oats, barley, wheat, rye, sorghum, etc). The second option is to use a broadleaf crop (field pea, clovers, turnip, other brassica species including camelina, and others) and the third option is to use a crop mixture using different species. The grasses are relatively inexpensive. The seed can be broadcast or drilled, The grass species take up nitrogen (N) from the soil, promote mycorrhiza growth in the soil, and broadleaf herbicides can be used if necessary to control some weeds.  The advantage of using a legume is that it can biologically fix nitrogen (N). The legume biomass has about 4% N. Not all of this N is biologically fixed, as some is taken up from the soil. For the best results field pea and other species with large seeds need to be planted with a drill or planter and not broadcasted. Other small seeded legumes and other crop species can be broadcasted and harrowed in. However using a seeder will give better results. A cocktail of different species is popular in certain areas of North Dakota.

The benefit of cocktails is that they contain many different species, and depending on the growing conditions the most adapted species will dominate in the mixture.  Warm and cool season crops can be mixed as well as broadleaf and grass species. There is not one mixture that fits all conditions. Many different mixtures can work. It will depend on the main objective of the producer. If fixing N is important the mixture should be a mix of legumes with a small percentage of other crops. If for instance late fall grazing is an objective, possibly turnips and radishes could be a component of the mixture. The more diverse the mixture the more likely it is that some of the component species will do well during the season. The cost of course needs to be considered. Weed control before seeding of a cocktail is important. A great resource for North Dakota is the “tool” produced by the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory ARS staff at Mandan. The Midwest cover Crop Council has developed a cover crop selection tool for the region.

Managing Cover Crops Profitably is a book with detailed information on cover crops it can be down loaded for free from the SARE website.

Another website with of the CropSys-Cap provides information on cover crop research conducted in North Dakota, including camelina, winter rye and other species.

Other considerations for acres which could not be seeded with a main crop in the spring: use the area for seeding winter wheat or winter rye in the fall, clean the rocks out of the field, or take the opportunity to install sub-surface drainage or improve surface drainage.

Cover Crops After Wheat

Before using cover crops in the cropping system, it is important to decide what the purpose is of the cover crop, forage crop, or cover crop mixture. Using a mixture of cover crops may allow producers to meet several goals simultaneously. Cover crop mixtures add more diversity, compete better with weeds, optimize nutrient cycling, and use the available moisture in a more efficient manner. Mellowing the soil and/or adding organic matter are usually the primary goals of growing a cover crop. Use of soil moisture by a cover crop, during the period after the main crop has been harvested, might be one of the objectives in a relatively wet year. However, in a dry year a cover crop may use soil moisture that otherwise possibly might be used by a crop during the next season.

In North Dakota spring wheat is seeded in the early spring and wheat is harvested at the end of July or early August. Winter wheat is typically harvested two weeks before spring wheat. The average first killing frost in the fall is around the 20th of September in central North Dakota. The period between wheat harvest and the first killing frost can be used for additional forage or biomass production. The key is the availability of sufficient soil moisture and or precipitation. If a mixture of more cold tolerant species is included in the cover crop mixture, the growing window may be extended well into October. We compared three cover crop mixtures. In Fargo and Dickinson cover crops were seeded into fallow ground, to avoid volunteer wheat. In Fargo a wheat treatment was broadcasted to simulate volunteer grain. In Hettinger the cover crops were seeded into wheat stubble. The mixtures which included brassica species established well.

Table 1. Cover crop seeded after spring wheat was harvested, Fargo and Dickinson, and Hettinger.

    Fargo              Dickinson Hettinger² 
Cover crop1 Seeding rate lb/acre   ------ lb/acre biomass ------  
Mix 1       10.3 1740b²                    162b 141b
Mix 2        6.7 3582ab                   1080a 1307a
Mix 3        8.1 4206a                    570ab 438b
Spring wheat RB07        80 3144ab    

Source: Dickinson, P. Carr and Hettinger, E. Eriksmoen.

  1. Cover crop mixture 1. Non-dormant alfalfa, Persian clover, common vetch, and red clover. Crop mixture 2. Common lentil, kale, turnip, daikon radish and berseem clover. Crop mixture 3 a mix of the above two mixtures.
  2. Hettinger had a higher seeding rate.
  3. There is no significant difference at P≤0.10, if at least one letter behind means is similar. 


Near Fargo, mixture 3 was significantly better than mixture 1. The difference between the two mixtures in biomass yield is attributed to the presence of the brassica species (kale, turnip and radish).  In Dickinson and Hettinger, mixture 2 (with the brassica species) was significantly better than mixture 1. The mixtures mentioned (see Photo 1) are just examples to show that there are opportunities to capture sunlight in the fall and transform the energy into biomass. Radish and turnip have also performed well in other research. Many different mixtures of various species can be composed and this will most likely reduce the production risk. However, if there is not enough moisture to establish and sustain the cover crop, the biomass produced will be very low. In western North Dakota the risk of limited establishment tends to be due to the generally drier conditions (see low biomass levels at Dickinson and Hettinger). If seeded directly into wheat stubble, volunteer wheat may compete with the seeded cover crop and volunteer wheat plants may have to be controlled.

Radish in plot 102 8 oct 2010 NW 22

NDSU Extension Offers Crop and Pest Report

Each season brings new challenges and pest problems in crop production. To help, the North Dakota State University Extension is offering a “Crop and Pest Report” newsletter. 

It will keep producers and others informed and prepared on how to effectively manage any problem. The newsletter is a weekly series of updates on crop, soil, insect, disease, horticultural and weed conditions. Each issue contains valuable information about insect and disease problems, pest alerts, integrated pest management strategies, pesticide updates, agronomy and fertility issues, horticulture problems, reports from the NDSU Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, important Extension meetings and a weather outlook. Local reports also are included on agronomic and pest issues, plus crop development from agronomists at the Research Extension Centers across the state.

Subscribers will have the option of receiving the newsletter electronically in a color PDF format. To subscribe for the free e-mail version of the report, visit the crop and pest report website.

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