Cover crops are a great way to improve soil health. Many Iowa farmers are adding cover crops into their cash crop rotations so soil stays covered when the fields are not growing other crops. Cover crops also improve soil organic matter and slow water run off.
Farmers have many questions about incorporating cover crops. Most asked questions include: what kinds of plants can be used, when and how to seed and when and how to terminate. With field days and workshops, Iowa Learning Farms strives to help farmers, and other interested people, find the answers to these questions and more.
NEW! Cover Crop Cost Calculator
A new tool has been created to help calculate and compare the cost of drilling or aerial seeding cover crops. The downloadable Excel file calculates the total cost of using the cover crop including seed, application, and chemical termination. You can use the calculator for a single cover crop species or up to six species to a mixture. The tool calculates the cost of drilling and aerial application for easy comparison.
To use the calculator, download and open the Excel file (Microsoft Excel software must be installed on your computer in order to use the file). Any cell that is shaded in yellow can have a value inserted including the cost of the seed in $/lb, and the cost of application.
Adding A Cover Crop to a Corn-Soybean System
The ILF produced video features Sarah Carlson, Midwest Cover Crop Research Coordinator with Practical Farmers of Iowa. The first video discusses planting cover crops and the second video offers tips on terminating cover crops.
Resources for Cover Crops
Small Grain Cover Crops for Corn and Soybean (PDF)
Iowa State University Extension publication
Midwest Cover Crops Council web site offers excellent resources for cover crops education as well as networking opportunities for cover crop users.
Also on the Midwest Cover Crops Council website is the Cover Crop Decision Tool. This free on-line resource can help you decide which cover crop variety is most suitable for your farming conditions. The tool has two parts: one for field crops and one for vegetable growing.
Iowa Learning Farms/Practical Farmers of Iowa Cover Crop Study
"Several studies have been conducted but few have involved planting the cover crop in the same location in consecutive years. This five-year study will measure the yield of corn and soybeans in cover and no cover treatments to determine if the cover crop has a negative effect on the cash grain yield."
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture houses the Iowa Cover Crops Working Group page that lists several additional resources.
Upcoming Field Days
November 1, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Buena Vista County Extension Building
824 Flindt Drive
Storm Lake, Iowa
Field plots located 3/4 mile north of intersection of C49 and M50, east of Storm Lake
November 12, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Rick Juchems farm
33635 110th Street
Cover crops and soil erosion, preventative planting, and mixtures
November 13, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (lunch following)
Don Elsbernd farm
809 Pole Line Road
Aerially seeded cover crops in NE Iowa, cost-share opportunities
November 14, 1:00-3:30 p.m.
Mark Peterson farm
2311 N Ave
Cover crop varieties for soil health and grazing
View 2 site with 18 varieties of cover crops
November 19, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
(come at Noon for a chili lunch)
Fred Abels farm
20902 J Ave.
Cover crops and cattle grazing