Cover crops a popular option for prevent plant fields; what to know

Many Minnesota farmers have been forced to take a prevented plant designation on acres left unseeded due to what was a terrible spring. After taking prevent plant, farmers are faced with the decision of what to do with fields sitting on the sidelines for 2019.

After speaking with their crop insurance consultant, many farmers are turning to cover crops to protect their soil over the growing season.

Axel Garcia y Garcia is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s Southwest Research and Outreach Center who researches cover crop implementation. In planting cover crops on prevented plant acres, he said it is important for growers to consider both source of the seed and planting practice.

Garcia y Garcia emphasized the need for growers to go through a reputable dealer to purchase their cover crop seed. Cover crop establishment was less than ideal in Minnesota last year due to the weather, so seed may not be as plentiful as in past years.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture issued an advisory last week also emphasizing the need to follow Minnesota Seed Law for cover crop seed. Per the law, seed must have a label that contains information about the seed including kind and origin as well as percent germination, percent of other crop seeds and weed seeds. The test also confirms it was tested for noxious weed seeds and lists the name and number of seed per pound of restricted noxious seeds (prohibited noxious weed seeds cannot be present) among other points of information. The label lists the contact information of the company responsible for the analysis as well and should be sold by an authorized dealer.

Garcia y Garcia also strongly recommends farmers drill the seed as opposed to broadcast seeding. Cover crop seeds are small and require strong seed-to-soil contact for establishment.

Overall, Garcia y Garcia is a strong proponent of planting cover crops on prevented plant acres, which will prevent weeds, protect the soil and help recycle nitrogen. He also hopes the unconventional introduction to cover crops will lead to more farmers considering the practice in the future.

“This could be a great opportunity for farmers to see the benefits of cover crops,” Garcia y Garcia said. “They won’t make you money directly, but they bring great ecological benefits by recycling nutrients, protecting the soil, and eventually improved soil health.”

Read more about recent cover crop research funded by Minnesota’s corn farmers: click here.

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