There has been a great deal of attention from the public, government, and the agricultural industry about using cover crops. So why is everyone so infatuated with the idea of using them?
First, there are many environmental benefits from having cover crops. Second, consumer demand for sustainable food and products is also a big part for the movement towards using cover crops. These benefits are important, but we also need to concentrate on the benefits for farmers. More and more farmers are learning these benefits and the more we work with cover crops, the more we learn what works in our area and in our fields and for your bottom line.
Doing What Works for You There are a few things we have learned over the years and the first step is learning that cover crops are part of a system, not just an add-on to an operation. Figuring out what issues you want to help control is a big part of knowing what to do. Being able to adapt your system to let the cover crop do its job will help you increase the benefits and maybe reduce some other inputs.
Lessons Learned in 2021 The biggest thing we learned this year has been the ability to use cover crops to reduce the affects of extreme weather conditions. Cover crops combined with a no-till system has proven to help in the previous years with excessive rainfall and now this year has proven to help with droughty conditions - if they were managed correctly and timely. Also, using those two practices together has shown more benefit than using either practice on its own. They help water infiltrate faster and deeper into the soil. They also help to conserve water by reducing the amount of water lost to evaporation. Soil temperatures in cover crop fields don’t fluctuate as much as tilled fields or bare ground and allowed a more consistent germination of the crop if the soil temp was warm enough when it was planted. We need to keep in mind that residue and tillage greatly affect soil temperature and soil moisture.
Timing of Termination Keep in mind that the timing of the cover crop termination is critical. Terminating too soon reduces the benefits and doing it too late can use up more resources, such as water. Being patient at planting time can prove to be a bigger benefit after the crop has emerged than planting into soil that is too cold or wet. The more consistent water profile, more consistent soil density and more consistent soil temperature in cover crop fields also helps with more even and more efficient root development and plant growth.
- weed, insect, and disease management while reducing your input costs
- controlling soil erosion, carbon crediting, and water quality.
There are many different options of cover crop seed as well as ways to get the seed planted. Here at FCS, we offer many different options for planting cover crops including aerial seeding, intercrop seeding with a Hagie air drop seeder, air spreader application, and custom drilling.
Getting everything to work together and impacting your return on investment in a positive way can be a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and right advisors to help, it can also return big rewards on multiple levels for your farm.
Want to see if cover crops work for you? Give you FCS Agronomists a call today! Don't have an FCS Agronomist? Click here and find the agronomist that covers your territory.