Cover crops: “Great option” for drought, wind impacted acres

by | Sep 2, 2020 | 5 Ag Stories, News

State agriculture officials note a rise in cover crop acres. However, many questions remain about how to incorporate the practice after prolonged drought conditions and a derecho wind storm.

Mark Licht, assistant professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, understands many challenges lie ahead, especially as we look at drought and severe wind damage. He wants farmers to consider one practice, as they inch toward fall harvest.

?I do think it is a distinct possibility that, yes, things are going to be a little more difficult. We?re going to have to change how we?ve done it in the past. But using cover crops is still a great, viable option and we can still get many benefits from using cover crops,? Licht says.

Widespread drought conditions dominate much Iowa, which is why Licht encourages farmers to first acknowledge this aspect when it comes to incorporating fall cover crops.

?Normally we would be saying, ?Let?s get out there and do broadcast seeding or aerial seeding.? Quite honestly, that ground is dry, and has been dry,? Licht says. ?Because it?s been so dry, it?s going to be hard to get seed-to-soil contact and enough moisture to get germination and emergence to occur, especially once it?s down inside the corn and soybean canopy.?

Licht recommends timing seeding with rain events, as well as few other things.

?We may want to think about slightly higher seeding rates to ensure we get enough plants growing,? Licht says. ?Then we may want to think about larger seeded species. They will typically do a little better when we get into some dryer conditions. I?m thinking, specifically, winter rye and cereal rye.?

Farmers may postpone seeding until after harvest, when they can rely on cooler temperatures and frequent rainfall. Establishing cover crops in wind damaged fields, however, may be more tricky.