Today, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey shared some spring management tips for farmers new to growing cover crops.
“Farmers using cover crops are seeing the benefits of reduced erosion, improved water quality, and soil health, and even better weed control. But, spring management decisions remain critical to successful cover cropping,” Northey said.
1. Evaluate for winter kill – The mild winter, coupled with an early spring has provided near optimal conditions for cover crop growth. Cover crop species that may normally winter-kill may have over wintered. Scout your cover crop fields and check the crown of the plant for green plant tissue.
2. Termination options – Herbicides, tillage or a combination of the two can be used to effectively manage cover crops in the spring. Keep in mind any tillage will reduce the effectiveness of the cover crop residue to protect against erosion and suppress weeds.
3. Consider nitrogen needs – Winter cereal cover crops effectively scavenge nitrogen and reduce soil available nitrogen in the months of late April and May.
4. Planter Setup: A field planted after a winter cereal cover crop will be in a different condition than a tilled or no-till field with no cover crop.
5. Scout Insects: Although rarely an issue, sometimes true armyworm insects can emerge in corn fields following a winter cereal cover crop.
6. Know crop insurance requirements – Crop insurance rules state that a cover crop in Zone 3 (western third of Iowa) must be terminated by the day of cash crop planting. A cover crop in Zone 4 (eastern 2/3rds of Iowa) must be terminated within 5 days of cash crop planting.
7. Start planning now for cover crop needs this fall – Determine what cover crop(s) work with your current or planned crop protection program.
8. Consider participating in the Conservation Technology Information Center’s annual cover crop survey – The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) conducts an annual cover crop survey of all farmers, whether they plant cover crops or not.
More information about incorporating cover crops into your farming operation can be found at here.
“Hopefully these tips and the resources that are available statewide will help farmers have success as they manage their cover crops this spring. We want farmers to have a successful experience and be encouraged to try cover crops again in the future,” Northey said.
Northey also encouraged farmers that are using cover crops to share photos on social media.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will be sharing photos on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #FarmersCoverIowa.