This spring is one that we in the agricultural industry and those who live in rural communities will never forget. The rain keeps pouring. This historically late planting falls in a time of high policy and price uncertainty. Many concerns are weighing on farmers’ minds.

Haley Haverback

Haley Haverback

With many acres eligible for prevented planting payments on corn crop insurance policies, one thing on the brain may be giving cover crops a try. Cover crops offer many benefits when compared to leaving a field fallow. Cover crops have the potential to slow erosion, improve soil health, smother weeds, and increase biodiversity.

Integrating cover crops as part of your cropping system requires some additional management. However, there are some useful resources to guide producers as they get started.

  • Cover Crop Selector Tool – http://mccc.msu.edu/selector-tool. Based upon county-specific data, the web-based tool generates reliable establishment dates for several different cover crop species. The tool also considers varieties based upon the goals that you wish to achieve from using cover crops. The goals listed within the decision tools include nitrogen source, nitrogen scavenger, soil builder, erosion fighter, weed fighter, good grazing, quick growth, lasting residue, mechanical forage harvest value, and interseeding with cash crop. Also, the tool provides recommendations on seeding rates, planting times, and termination for varieties.
  • Illinois Cover Crop Recipes – http://mccc.msu.edu/getting-started/cover-crop-recipes. If producers are looking for a general trusted approach to cover cropping, Illinois Extension and the Midwest Cover Crop Council have developed cover crop “recipes. The recipes provide producers with a straightforward, low-risk strategy for adding cover crops into a corn-soybean rotation in Illinois. This resource is of value to both crop advisers and producers with limited experience with cover crops. The recipes provide information on cover crops varieties, seeding rates and dates, and termination guidance.
  • Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Podcast – https://will.illinois.edu/agriculture/note/50107. University of Illinois Extension watershed outreach associates with the help of Todd Gleason of Willag.org produce the podcast. Episodes are released monthly with the goal to provide farmers with real-time information on how to manage various conservation practices, including cover crops. Several episodes highlight conversations on how to manage cover crops as a part of a cropping system based upon current research from Midwestern Universities. Episodes also feature advice from producers currently incorporating the practice.

For any specific cover crop questions, please feel free to contact me at 309-932-3447 or hmh2@illinois.edu.

Haley Haverback is a University of Illinoi Extension watershed outreach associate.

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