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Developing a cover crop strategy

By Staff | Dec 21, 2013

MOVILLE – Think small. Take baby steps. If a change is needed, change.

These is the fundamental advice by Brian Lang, an Iowa State University Extension agronomist, based in Decorah, to farmers considering planting cover crops.

He was speaking at a Dec. 10 cover crops workshop in Moville.

Lang said that while “still in the beginning learning curve” there have been few major instances of producer resistance to program participation.

“In the beginning, when you’re looking at something new you may be a little scared at what it does or could mean,” Lang said. “With cover crops I see it comparable to when we were learning about no-till.

“Once you realize what can be done and how your operation can fit in, you become more comfortable, and it’s not an issue.”

As for major producer guidelines for getting started Lang suggests starting with one field or a portion of a field in order for the producer to develop a strategy and logistics of planting cover crops.

“Give it a shot,” he said. “So many facets are involved in setting up the program, the current and future crops, purpose of the ground cover and whether it’s for foraging or harvesting purposes.

“Will you broadcast seed or drill? You must also consider the species of seed to plant, seeding dates, rates and planting windows.”

Producers must also consider the risk of a winter small grain crop growing ahead of corn. If not killed in time, the cover crop can sow seeds and act as a weed.

Farmers must also weigh the soil benefits versus necessary equipment adaptation and increased labor costs, Lang said.

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