Secure your cover crop seed for fall 2019 today!


Gaesser Family

We had a great evening for a cover crop field day hosted by the Gaesser family near Corning on Tuesday, July 9th. With nearly 50 people in attendance, there was great interest in adding more cover crop acres among the experienced users and a handful of those looking to try it for the first time.

Sarah Carlson, Practical Farmers of Iowa, helped set the stage by sharing how farmers can help make cover crops pay with benefits beyond improved water quality and soil erosion reduction.

“If we want to get started and make it pay, it is best to start with a small grain like rye or oats,” commented Carlson. “In a corn/soybean rotation, legumes and brassicas are not going to get enough sunlight to justify the seed cost.”

IMG_5746For the more experienced cover crop users, Carlson recommended taking them to the next level by delaying spring termination of rye ahead of soybeans to achieve weed control benefits and reducing herbicide costs. Another suggestion was planting corn in 60 inch rows to interseed the cover crop earlier in the season to achieve more growth.


The Gaesser family has been growing their own rye seed for cover crops for the past few years as a way to control costs and improve soil and water quality on their farm.

“We grow our own cereal rye seed each year averaging between 3,000-7,000 bushels to help us cover about half of our crop acres. We like to include rye in the rotation on fields that have been a challenge before – weed pressure or erosion. Once harvested, we clean and store it for use that same year,” stated Chris Gaesser.

Having your own seed supply is a major advantage this year due to the widespread need for prevented planting seed across the Midwest.

IMG_5788“The cover crop seed surplus from 2018 has been used up already this year,” shared Bert Strayer of La Crosse Seed. “That means this year’s cover crop seed will come from what gets harvested in the next month or so. For that reason it is encouraged to get your seed orders in as soon as you can to make sure you have access to seed when you want to be seeding this fall.”

If you are looking for a seed source near you, check out the Practical Farmers of Iowa Cover Crop Business Directory.

Be sure to stay tuned to our events page for more cover crop field days later this year!

Liz Juchems

Two Field Day Opportunities July 9th – Native Perennial Plantings and Cover Crops, Grazing and Soil Health!

The Iowa Learning Farms team is pulling a double header and hosting two events on Tuesday, July 9th. We’d love to have you join us!

Both include a complimentary meal, so RSVP today to help with the meal planning.

July 9, Native Perennial Planting Workshop
Whiterock Conservancy Burr Oak Visitor’s Center
1436 IA-141
Coon Rapids, IA
Guthrie County
Partner: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Press Release
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or

July 9, Cover Crop and Soil Health Field Day
Ray & Elaine Gaesser Farm
2507 Quince Ave
Corning, IA
Adams County
Partners: Soil Health Partnership, Adams County Farm Bureau, Iowa Corn, Iowa Soybean Association, National Wildlife Federation Cover Crop Champions Program
Press Release
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or

Liz Juchems

Change to Haying and Grazing Date for Cover Crop Prevented Planting Acres

Risk Management Agency Release, June 20, 2019

Farmers who planted cover crops on prevented plant acres will be permitted to hay, graze or chop those fields earlier than November this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today. USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) adjusted the 2019 final haying and grazing date from November 1 to September 1 to help farmers who were prevented from planting because of flooding and excess rainfall this spring.

“We recognize farmers were greatly impacted by some of the unprecedented flooding and excessive rain this spring, and we made this one-year adjustment to help farmers with the tough decisions they are facing this year,” said Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. “This change will make good stewardship of the land easier to accomplish while also providing an opportunity to ensure quality forage is available for livestock this fall.”

RMA has also determined that silage, haylage and baleage should be treated in the same manner as haying and grazing for this year. Producers can hay, graze or cut cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage on prevented plant acres on or after September 1 and still maintain eligibility for their full 2019 prevented planting indemnity.

“These adjustments have been made for 2019 only,” said RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “RMA will evaluate the prudence of a permanent adjustment moving forward.”

Other USDA Programs

Other USDA agencies are also assisting producers with delayed or prevented planting. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is extending the deadline to report prevented plant acres in select counties, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is holding special sign-ups for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program in certain states to help with planting cover crops on impacted lands. Contact your local FSA and NRCS offices to learn more.

More Information

Read our frequently asked questions to learn more about prevented plant.

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers and online at the RMA Agent Locator. Learn more about crop insurance and the modern farm safety net at


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Faces of Conservation: Rob Stout

This blog post is part of the Faces of Conservation series, highlighting key contributors to ILF, offering their perspectives on the history and successes of this innovative conservation outreach program.

Farmer-Partner with Iowa Learning Farms

Rob Stout has been farming near West Chester, Iowa, since graduating from Iowa State University (ISU) in 1978. Rob has demonstrated high levels of interest in conservation and water quality and has gotten involved in a variety of efforts to advocate for improvements. This has extended to his own farming choices which have included no-till for many years as well as participation in multiple research studies with ISU.

What has been your involvement and role with ILF?
I started working with the Iowa Learning Farms team in 2006. The ILF commitment to creating a Culture of Conservation resonated with my own interest in achieving water quality improvement through agricultural practices.

We got in on the first year of the long-term cover crop study and I’m proud to say we recently reported our tenth year of data. But it didn’t take me 10 years to see the benefits. The only parts of my farm fields not in cover crops now are the four test strips I keep for comparison in the ILF study.

The farmer-to-farmer communications element of the ILF outreach is very effective, and I’ve hosted field days, invited friends and neighbors to learn about conservation techniques, and volunteered to speak at ILF-sponsored events and meetings.

Why did you get involved with ILF?
Previously, I had been involved in several ISU research projects to help learn and improve farming techniques. I was also already involved in water quality initiatives. I saw working with ILF as an opportunity to learn more and work with others interested in water quality improvement.

The Culture of Conservation concept captured my interest. The ILF approach to research and outreach fit well with my own passion for learning and doing more to protect and promote the natural ecosystem through better agricultural practices.

How did you change the program, and how did it change you?
I don’t think I individually changed the ILF program, but I’ve always been pleased with the genuine interest they’ve shown in learning from farmers through listening to – and acting upon – feedback and ideas from the farmers. Through hosting and participating in field days, showing others the application of conservation practices, and joining in farmer-to-farmer interactions, I think I’ve provided valuable feedback and helped open new ears to the messages of ILF.

I’ve learned a lot from my involvement with ILF. I loved doing research when I was at ISU, and participating with ILF gives me a chance to continue learning while staying involved in research efforts.

I’ve also grown in my understanding of conservation and water quality issues. In 1983 I was doing no-till and thought I was doing everything I could. I initially thought of conservation simply as erosion control. The ILF cover crop study helped broaden my perspective and knowledge about practices that have changed the way I approach farming and conservation. ILF helped me to become an advocate and a voice of experience for farmers who may be interested in learning about the research from someone who has done it.

What are your fondest memories of working with ILF?
A favorite memory is of a field day we were hosting for ILF. As often happens in Iowa, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate, and we had torrential rains dropping some 3.5 inches on the morning of the event. We quickly cleared the shop to make room for the participants and were able to have a great experience. However, I think the rainfall simulator in the Conservation Station trailer didn’t need to use its own water supply that day!

Why are water quality and conservation outreach important to you and to Iowa?
I care about the environment and the future of our agricultural-based economy. Everyone, including farmers, must take responsibility and do their part to help reduce nitrates in our water. I think the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy‘s goals are critical for the future of the state.

I’ve been learning about watersheds and water quality since the early 2000s when I joined a farmer-led watershed group working to restore a local impaired creek. We secured grants to install bioreactors and a saturated buffer, implemented buffer strips along creeks, and took other positive steps to improve the watershed. To me, this kind of on-the-ground action is a core element to creating the Culture of Conservation which will benefit all Iowans.

Previous Posts in our Faces of Conservation series:

Cover Crop Options with Prevented Planting Fields

This article was originally published on May 31, 2019 via Integrated Crop Management News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Authors: Mark Licht, Hugo Ramirez-Ramirez, Brian Lang, Aaron Saeugling and Katana Lippolis.

Whether it’s too much rain or perfectly timed rain, many fields are flooded or too wet to continue planting in many parts of Iowa. Delayed and preventative planting crop insurance dates are fast approaching with an unfavorable weather forecast. Decisions surrounding your delayed and prevented planting provision need to involve a conversation with your crop insurance provider. There is a nice article available on the Ag Decision Maker website that talks about the insurance provision implications. Additionally, there is are articles addressing Late Corn Planting Options and Late Soybean Planting Options; these articles discuss late planted yield potential. Each choice has practical and economic implications; approach this decision with caution and armed with good information.

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If prevented planting is taken, it is highly recommended to plant a cover crop or an emergency forage crop rather than letting the field be fallow through the summer. Please note; under prevented planted provisions a cover crop or emergency forage CANNOT be grazed or harvested for forage until after November 1 and cannot ever be harvested for grain without reduction to prevent plant coverage payment. Please discuss this with your crop insurance provider.

Cover Crop Options and Considerations

Winter Cereals (Rye, Wheat, Triticale) can be planted as early as August with good success of winter survival and high forage yield potential in spring. Minimum seeding rate of 45 pounds/acre for cover, but twice that to maximize a forage harvest in spring. Best success when planting is followed by rainfall. Drill seeding is more uniform than broadcast or aerial seeding. Winter cereal rye is generally the most economical.

Spring Cereals (Oats, Wheat, Barley) can be planted anytime before September 15. When planted early they will likely produce a seed head that will shatter causing some reseeding.

Soybean can be planted as a prevent plant cover crop option. It is recommended to plant in rows narrower than 15-inches or broadcast seed. Row crop planters can be used by planting at a ½ seeding rate in the normal row direction followed by planting perpendicular, at an angle, or offset from the original row. Use a seeding rate of 60,000 to 80,000 seeds/acre, maybe slightly higher if broadcast seeding. Narrower rows and lower seeding rate will support branching to achieve canopy closure more quickly for weed competition. For consideration, soybean might be a viable option to use treated seed that has already been purchased.

Corn can be planted as a prevent plant cover crop option. This is not a preferred option because of challenges associated with fall residue management, future volunteer corn, and seed cost. If using corn as a cover crop on prevented plant acres, use a seeding rate of 60,000 to 80,000 and narrow row spacing as mentioned above in the soybean considerations. This will promote faster canopy closure and reduce the number and amount of viable seeds produced.

Brassicas (Turnips, Kale, Forage Rape, Radishes) should be planted from late July into August for best biomass.  If planted in June, most of these will likely ‘bolt’ and produce seed by fall. They can be planted with a cereal grain such as oats, triticale or rye. The brassicas will winterkill, but they are highly frost tolerant and will remain a good grazing forage well into November.

Legumes (Crimson Clover, Berseem Clover, Field Pea, Hairy Vetch, Common Vetch) are slower to establish and more expensive than other cover crop options. Seeding should occur in August to ensure adequate growth that would lead to higher overwintering success.

This article has been adapted from two previous ICM News articles written by Stephen Barnhart; Prevented Planting and Cover Crop Considerations, June 2013 and Forage and Cover Crop Considerations for Delayed Planting and Flooded Sites, June 2008.

Liz Juchems

Cover Crop Impact on Crop Yield and Water Quality: Single Species vs. Mixtures


Emily Waring

How do single species cover crops compare to mixtures when considering impacts to water quality and crop yield? On Wednesday, Emily Waring, Graduate Research Assistant at Iowa State University, presented results from a research project that has been carried out at six Iowa State University research farms from 2013 – 2018.

The research project compared oats and a mixture of oats, hairy vetch and radish before corn to a control site where no cover crops were used before corn. Before soybeans, the cover crops used were cereal rye and a mixture of cereal rye, rapeseed and radish, which were again compared to a site where no cover crops were used before soybeans.

Waring’s take home messages were:

  • Corn and soybeans are fundamentally “leaky” – cover crops can fill the void in the brown months (before cash crop planting and after cash crop harvest)
  • Nitrate concentrations were significantly reduced with the use of cover crops – with the highest reductions seen when using rye and oats
  • Corn and soybean yields were unaffected by the use of the cover crops
  • Rye and oats provide the best biomass return on seed investment

The research project results show that single species perform well, when when looking at water quality improvement and crop yield. The cover crop species mixtures were more expensive and did not perform better than the single species at reducing nitrate and improving water quality, however Waring stated that there are likely more benefits to diversifying mixtures that aren’t reflected in this study. Future research will look at the soil health benefits of using cover crops and will compare the use of single species vs. mixtures when improving soil health is the goal.

To learn more about the research results, watch the full webinar here.

Join us next month, on Wednesday, June 19 at noon, when Chris Hay, Senior Environmental Scientist at the Iowa Soybean Association, will present an Iowa Learning Farms webinar titled “Drainage Water Recycling: An Emerging Conservation Drainage Practice”.

Hilary Pierce

Developing BMPs through In-Field Conservation Practices Summits


Mark Licht | Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Extension Cropping Systems Specialist, Iowa State University

This past winter I coordinated a series of summits to develop best management practices (BMPs) for three in-field conservation practices. The summits focused on cover crops, no-tillage/strip-tillage, and diverse rotations. Our charge was to develop BMPs that would allow farmers who had no prior experience with the practices to successfully adopt the practices. This was a tall order for a group of people passionate about conservation and the desire to help farmers make the best decisions possible.

These three conservation practices are imperative to the successfully addressing Iowa’s water quality concerns. They also have the ability to address other resource concerns such as soil and wind erosion. Providing a clear message on strategies leading to successful adoption of conservation practices will lead to greater and continued adoption of these practices.

Like adoption of most things, there is the need to learn as much up front as possible. Extension specialists, crop advisers and neighboring farmers are great resources to learn tips and tricks for adopting a new practice. The next aspect is to start with a single field or portion of a field. This builds a comfort level with the new practice and allows more attention to be placed on fine-tuning the new system.

Often times, development of BMPs are straightforward at a broad level but are often dependent on the individualized aspects of each farm operation. There are many considerations that come into play for a recommendation to match the management practice of an individual farmer or field. This made it hard to develop BMPs that were definitive enough to provide guidance that still allowed flexibility. Our approach, where needed, was to discuss some of the considerations that must go into the decisions being made to help guide a management decision rather than prescribe how practices are implemented.

In many cases, there was agreement amongst participants as to what the BMPs were. However, there was nuance as to the details behind the BMPs being developed. This stands to reason because of the complexity that exists within cropping systems and the interaction between management practices, crop productivity, and environmental consequences.

Without going into too much detail, here are some of the main take away points;

  • Cereal rye and oats are the preferred cover crops
  • Corn and soybean management ahead of the cover crop does not need to be altered
  • Aerial overseeding of cover crops should be targeted for August 20 to September 10
  • Glyphosate is the preferred spring termination method for overwintering cover crops
  • No-tillage is recommended ahead of soybean regardless of location, slope, or drainage
  • Strip-tillage ahead of corn is recommended for poorly drained, low slope fields
  • Small grains should follow soybean in diverse and an overwintering cover crop should be used
  • Where markets are available, consider adding alfalfa or forage species into the traditional corn-soybean rotation

The BMPs from these summits are being fine-tuned through this summer and will be rolled out for public review and use in the fall.

In-Field Conservation Practices Summit participants represented Iowa Learning Farms, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa Agricultural Water Alliance, Iowa Soybean Association, National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. The project was funded by USDA-NRCS in Iowa.

Mark Licht