What Species of Cover Crops Should You Plant?
It seemed to start with the Prevented Plant year of 2013. Remember how wet that spring was and many intended acres of corn and soybeans did not get planted. Many farmers were forced to take the Prevented Plant payment provided in their crop insurance. One of the requirements at that time to receive the payment was that a cover crop had to be planted.
For many farmers that was their first experience with cover crops. Farmers are very observant and curious. Many noticed some benefits of cover crops like improved tilth, soil structure, water infiltration and more. Interest in cover crops increased dramatically and even trying to find ways to work cover crops into the corn soybean rotation. The tough part is with so many different species and combinations what do you plant?
Extension Educator Claire LaCanne in Rice and Steele County emails a monthly Update From Rice and Steele County. It includes U of M Extension programs coming up along with articles on timely topics. In the April update there was an article written by U of M Extension Soil Health Specialist Anna Cates titled: Growing Cover Crops In Minnesota: 4 Great Resources to Get You Started. Here are the resources written by Anna Cates:
- U of M Extension Cover Crops web pages. Extension’s website has lots of useful information on cover crops, including the benefits of cover crops, how to evaluate the herbicides in your rotation for interaction with cover crops, and termination options. This site includes research updates and recommendations as they come out, so check back!
- The Minnesota Cover Crop Research Guide (funded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture). The Minnesota Office for Soil Health has maps of local cover crop help, species-by-species summaries based on Minnesota cover crop research, and a short guide with a list of questions to keep in mind if you’re planting cover crops for the first time.
- Midwest Cover Crops Council Cover Crop Decision Tool. This tool offers an interactive, visual method to evaluate different cover crop species in your cash crop rotation. The interface and data have recently been updated and information is provided on individual species based on SARE’s Managing Cover Crops Profitably publication, another great free, online resource.
- Want to talk to a farmer who’s done it? Join the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition and look for a mentor in your area. They have farmer mentors implementing cover crops with and without livestock, with different tillage regimes, and across the state. The Sustainable Farming Association and the Land Stewardship Project also both have local field days and networking events around Minnesota.
There’s no one perfect cover crop system—the best one will be the one that you can profitably and effectively implement on your farm. Contact your local extension agent, SWCD, or NRCS staff for technical help—and don’t forget to ask about applying for state or federal cost-share so you can experiment with less risk.
In the picture is my field that oats and turnips were planted as a cover crop after the peas were harvested. In addition to all the information Anna put together I would add the business you are buying the cover crop seed from. Some of these seedsmen have sold cover crops for a long time and are also a wealth of knowledge!
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