Consider Planting a Cover Crop

As harvest time nears, many growers find themselves considering whether to plant a cover crop. During past weeks, we at have received several questions about cover crops. The interest in cover crops that we’ve noticed matches the attitudes captured in a recent nationwide survey.

In July 2016, the Conservation Technology Information Center, North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education and the American Seed Trade Association published results from their 2015-2016 cover crop survey. Those responding included commodity crop farmers, horticultural crop farmers, livestock producers, crop consultants, researchers and conservation agency employees. In the survey, 2,020 farmers responded, and 81 percent had at some point used a cover crop on their farms.

Based on the survey results, cover crop users anticipated that they would plant 339 acres on average to cover crops in 2016. By comparison, cover crop users planted 137 acres on average in 2011. This change suggests that producers increasingly feel more comfortable with cover crops and may have realized benefits from using them. In fact, those surveyed were asked to identify the top benefits associated with cover crop use. The three benefits receiving the most mentions were that cover crops improve soil health, control erosion and increase organic matter. Click here to see the full cover crop survey results.

For growers considering cover crops, they have several from which to choose. The Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service, or MOSES, suggests that producers consider cover crop benefits important to them. Then, they can select a cover crop that offers the desired benefits. MOSES has published a fact sheet that guides cover crop selection based on benefits such as the ability to scavenge nutrients, reduce erosion and suppress weeds.

At The Farm Research Center in Garden City, Mo., our research team has plans for cover crops this fall. Kent Kauffman of shares more about cover crops in this video.

Please call or email anytime if you’d like more information about using cover crops on your farm. This story from Successful Farming can also help producers to steer clear of seven mishaps related to cover crop selection and cultivation.

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