ROCKFORD, Ill.—-Typically, conditions in northern Illinois are not suited to cover crop use as shortened growing seasons and harsh winters make proper establishment difficult. However, given the amount of prevented planting acres across Illinois in 2019, producers may be eager to give cover crops a try due to their proposed benefits including: additional forage, reduced erosion and nutrient loss, improved water holding capacity nutrient cycling, as well as pathogen and weed suppression.

There are a wide variety of cover crops out there, each with specific functions which may or may not benefit your operation. For example, tillage radish has been used to alleviate compaction while cereal rye is known for ease of establishment and nutrient scavenging. However, cover crops are not without their own unique challenges; specialized equipment, residual herbicides, and successful termination prior to cash crop planting may be obstacles to overcome for successful integration into your cropping system.

Farmers and landowners are invited to join us on Tuesday, July 9, at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Rockford to learn more about cover crops during this challenging season. Local experts will share their research and experiences using different cover crop systems in northern Illinois. Speakers include Dan Smith, nutrient and pest management specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, and Jim Iserman, field manager with Soil Health Partnership. Topics they will discuss include long-term and short-term management, forage options, interseeding techniques, soil benefits, and the return on investments. Following the presentations, we will have a question and answer panel with the experts and local farmers who have incorporated cover crops into their rotations.

The program, which will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon is sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension, Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau, Illinois Farm Bureau, and Winnebago County Soil and Water Conservation District. Please RSVP by June 28. Registration fee is $10 per person by June 28 and $15 per person after June 28 or at the door. Seats are limited. To reserve your seat, please call the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau at 815-962-0653 by Friday, June 28.

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