Encouraging the use of cover crops

Encouraging the use of cover crops
Mar 12, 2021

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship offered six tips for cover crop success

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Representatives from Iowa’s ag community are encouraging state farmers to consider implementing cover crops.

Iowa farmers planted cover crops on about 880,000 acres in 2018, Iowa Learning Farms reported.

These cover crops bring multiple benefits to producers who use them, said Mike Naig, Iowa’s agriculture secretary.

“Cover crops are a critical piece of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy; they enhance soil health and improve water quality, while also offering weed control, livestock grazing and carbon-reduction benefits,” Naig said in a March 9 statement. “Farmers and landowners are seeing the benefits of cover crops and are seeding more acres than ever before.”

Naig’s department offered six tips for cover crop success.

The tips include evaluating for winterkill.

If a cover crop’s leaves appear brown with no visible green near the soil surface, it may be an indication of winterkill.

The second piece of advice is to consider termination options.

Between herbicide applications, roll killing or tillage, producers should consider which method would work best for their individual farm.

Another tip is to allow the cover crops to grow.

Letting them grow for as long as possible can help maximize the benefits the cover crops bring. Growers should terminate cover crops 10 to 14 days before planting corn, the state ag department said.

The fourth suggestion is to adjust planters accordingly.

Soil conditions after a cover crop can differ compared to a field without cover crops. A producer should make sure the seed slot or trench is closed properly because an open seed slot can damage seed corn.

The fifth tip is to understand crop insurance requirements.

Depending on the type of coverage a producer has, it may dictate when cover crops need to be terminated. Some policies, for example, mandate a cover crop be terminated five days before planting a cash crop.

And the sixth tip is to plan ahead for future cover crop planting.

Farms.com has contacted members of the ag community to discuss their experiences with cover crops.

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