Cover Crops are popping up all across the agricultural landscape. A big part of that is because of increased education and outreach, but Liz Juchems, Iowa Learning Farms conservation outreach specialist, said the farmer-to-farmer connection is also a key factor.
“Farmers and landowners see their neighbors use these practices successfully and the benefits it has for holding soil in place when we get these heavy rain events. They potentially could even get into the field earlier for planting and for harvest when we have these wet springs and wet falls that we have had in the past couple of years,” Juchems said. “It is just a new way of helping manage water, and I think folks are starting to see it take hold in their communities and are willing to give it a try.”
Farmers were invited to hear some of those success stories firsthand at a Cover Crop Workshop in Luana, Iowa Thursday, Dec. 5. Juchems said it was a chance for those who were on the fence about cover crops or still seeking more information to learn from farmers in their area.
“This is a great opportunity for farmers and landowners, and those interested in learning more about what we can do to protect our soil and improve water quality here in Iowa with cover crops,” Juchems said. “These practices can improve soil health, reduce soil erosion, and potentially even reduce weed pressure.”
According to Juchems, the most common cover crop species in the area is cereal rye. The grass species is an over-wintering cereal grain that is easy to establish and hardy. Other top crops include oats and radishes.
“Oats are attractive to folks because they will winter kill, so if they are nervous about having rye ahead of their corn, oats are a good option for that,” Juchems said. “If you have small grains or maybe you are taking out seed and seed corn silage, adding in one of those radish or deep-rooting plants, maybe grapeseed or canola, you can get some of the benefits of having the taproot species as well.”
Despite the benefits, Juchems noted cover crops do require time and investment whether it is adjusting planter settings to accommodate extra residue from a cover crop, or ensuring a cover crop is terminated.
“I think folks are still very interested,” Juchems said. “Workshops like these provide a great networking community with those who have successfully adopted cover crops.”
Those who are interested in learning more information can contact Juchems at 515-294-5429 or email [email protected]