The benefits of cover crops were discussed frequently last year because of drought, and now this year their benefit can come into play for fields that might not get planted because of heavy rains and flooding. Indiana farmers with unplanted fields are being encouraged to weigh program and prevented planting insurance options but also the opportunity cover crops bring for a more productive field.
Barry Fisher is State Soil Health Specialist with the Indiana Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“We’ve had everything from the fields being damaged from the excess water to a situation where a lot of the nutrients had already been applied to the field and now we don’t get to plant that field. The cover crop can add some repair mechanisms. We’ve had a lot of water but they can really help trap those nutrients so that we don’t lose those through the rest of the year.”
He adds, “If we can keep them in place that’s nutrients that aren’t going down the waterways but at the same time we’ve bought those expensive nutrients and we need to keep them on the farm for subsequent crop.”
Fisher says now is a good time to begin strategizing the various cover crop options for the varied needs of each farm.
“Decide what are the greatest resource concerns you have. If it’s trapping nutrients there are mixes that we’ve put together on the Midwest Cover Crop Council that are best at sequestering nutrients. Some are better for erosion control. There are mixes that might be better for weed control. You also don’t want that field to be overtaken the rest of the year with weeds, but at the same time maybe you don’t want to be out there spraying or cultivating that field all summer long to keep the weeds down. The cover crop can be a great way to keep those weeds at bay.”
The resources for farmers include Certified Crop Advisors, extension agents and local district conservationists, and Fisher says there is much more knowledge now available than there was just a few years ago.
Contact your local USDA NRCS office for help.
(Photo by Barry Fisher, USDA NRCS)