Still Time to Plan for Cover Crops 2019

Published on Jul 28, 2019 by Mollie Aronowitz, AFM

A close up of a tree

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Image: Rye cover crop coming up between corn rows in October.  Seed was flown on in early September.

With a wet spring causing delayed planting, Peoples Company Land Managers are seeing a broad range of growth stages on mid-summer farm tours.  Some areas are right in line with the 5-year average while other areas did not see soybean planting until June.  But time marches on and Fall is fast approaching; it is time to firm up plans for 2019 cover crops.

Cover crops are one of the corner posts of conservation practices in Midwest row crop operations.  Planting a small grain after harvest provides many interconnected and valuable benefits.  To name just a few:

  • Reduces erosion, keeping valuable topsoil on the farm.
  • Slows rainwater as it moves across a farm, allowing opportunity for infiltration.
  • Increases organic matter.
  • Extends months of the year living cover that increases soil biodiversity and biological activity.
  • Scavenges nutrients, keeping expensive crop inputs in the field versus in our water sources.

The benefits listed above boil down to improved soil health.  And the importance of soil health should be at the forefront of every landowner’s mind; improved soil health increases productivity that increases annual return and long-term appreciation of the farm.

While going out and planting cover crops sounds easy on paper, there are variables to consider.  When making cover crop plans, species selection, seeding rate, application method/cost, termination method/cost and past herbicide resistance must be considered.  And the benefits of cover crops are not immediate in the first year; it is a conservation practice that builds on each year of implementation.

With the added expense and management considerations, it is understandable that operators may be hesitant to experiment with cover crops on rented land.  It makes more sense to experiment and fine-tune cover crops on owned land where the operator has an investment in long term improvement.

A large green field with trees in the background

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