A Good Season to Try Cover Crops

August 8, 2013 08:58 AM
A Good Season to Try Cover Crops

Here's what to consider when choosing which cover crops to plant.

Due to the adequate moisture many areas have received, this year may be a good year to try cover crops, said Ruth Beck, SDSU Extension Agronomy Specialist.

"For instance where failed winter wheat acres were not recropped or spring seeded crops were hailed out; or in areas where flooding may have resulted in fields not being planted," she said. "These can all be situations where a cover crop may be a preferred option to leaving fields idle."

The USDA-NRCS and SDSU have developed numerous resources to help producers tailor a cover crop mix that will work for their situation. Beck said when choosing cover crops producers need to first determine the purpose of the cover crop.

"Is the cover crop being grown for soil health, grazing, to recycle nutrients, utilize excess water, reduce erosion and/or alleviate soil compaction? Other important considerations when choosing a cover crop are; previous and future crops, herbicide residues, time of year, seeding and terminating cover crops," Beck said.

The USDA has developed a cover crop chart which can provide information on various cover crop species. This can be downloaded here. A new publication has recently been posted online by the NRCS. It is titled Cover Crops to Improve Soil in Prevented Planting Fields. This publication offers some suggested cover crop mixes for a variety of purposes and may be helpful. A list of seed sellers that can provide cover crop seed is located online at www.sdnotill.com.

Before purchasing seed, Beck advises producers to check with the local Farm Service Agency office as well as their crop insurance agent to determine any specific requirements or harvest restrictions for cover crops.

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