Considerations For Getting Started With Cover Crops

Cereal Rye at Steve Berger's Farm

Cereal rye at Steve Berger’s farm in Southeast Iowa

Cover crops have garnered a lot of attention in recent years because they are one of the practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy that can be used to reduce losses of both nitrogen and phosphorus from farm fields. Cover crops have been shown to reduce erosion, build up or recycle nutrients, enhance soil health, assist with weed control, and provide forage for grazing.

There are things to consider when adding cover crops to your operation. Changes in priorities, timing, logistics and operations are required for successful implementation of cover crops into your cropping system. A new article from Mark Licht, ISU Department of Agronomy, and Tom Kaspar, USDA National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, identify eight important considerations for those looking to get started with cover crops.

  1. Start small and increase scale as your comfort level increases. 
  2. Look for “easy” entry points in your farming system like following corn silage, early soybeans, small grains or prevented planting acres.
  3. Start early with species selection and seed sources.
  4. Adjust seeding rates based on goals and seeding method.
  5. Pay attention to the forecast for timing and best method of seeding.
  6. Create a termination plan for winter-hardy cover crops.
  7. Modifications to corn and soybean management may be necessary to avoid yield drags.
  8. Learn about cover crops – click here for the field day schedule and find one near you!

For more detailed information about these tips and considerations, check out the full article here.

Liz Juchems

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