Cover Crops for prevented planted

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

This spring has been difficult to get crops planted, to say the least. One possibility for the prevented planted ground is cover crops. Cover crops can have several benefits, Legumes can add nitrogen for fall or next years crops. Approximately half of the nitrogen in the shoots of the legumes will be available for the following crop, one or two months after termination of the cover crop.

Cover crops can also serve as nitrogen scavengers, especially if you had your fertilizer applied but didn't get the crop in or the crop was lost due to excess water. This would not only hold the N for a later crop, but would keep the nitrogen from getting into the water table or being lost. Cereal rye or brassicas, such as radishes, are excellent examples of nitrogen scavengers. Some cover crops such as buckwheat and radish also help recycle nutrients such as phosphorus by bringing then up from the subsoil.

Another benefit of having a cover crop or plants growing on the field is the building of organic matter through the roots and shoots. The growing plants provide food for the organisms growing in the soil, which helps build soil aggregates, stabilize the soil and improve soil structure. There are organisms in the soil called mycorrhizae that makes nutrients more available to the plant. When the soil has been saturated with water or there are no plants available to provide the mycorrhizae with food, their populations are reduced over time. A cover crop would help maintain populations of mycorrhizae to support the following crops.

Reducing erosion is a primary goal of using cover crops for some producers. Cover crops add plant diversity to the soil, which helps reduce insect and disease pest issues. Cover crops such as cereal rye have been shown to be very good at suppressing certain weeds such as marestail. Cover crops also can be an excellent source of forage for livestock and still provide cover for erosion protection.

In planting cover crops, be aware of herbicides that were used on the previous crop that would prohibit planting a cover crop and/or grazing or harvesting your cover crop.

Insured growers who were prevented from planting their normal insured crop may be eligible to receive a Prevented Planting payment under their crop insurance policy.

Crop insurance rules carry some restrictions, however, if the grower wants to plant a cover crop and still retain their prevented planting payment. Namely, a grower can plant a cover crop during or after the end of the late planting period and receive a full PP payment so long as the cover crop is not hayed or grazed before Nov. 1. Also, the cover crop cannot be harvested for grain or seed at any time. As always, check your plans with your crop insurance agents to ensure compliance with the coverage and to determine expected payments, reporting requirements, and other details.