Are you covered on cover crops?
Cover crops have to be the fast growing phenomenon in crop production. While no-till producers were first to the party, the practice is spreading beyond that group. If a dealership isn’t in the game, it may be missing out on a business opportunity, suggests Hans Kok, coordinator, Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative.
Although grower purchases of seed, fertilizer and services have a direct impact on a retailer’s business, purchases of tillage equipment has none. And claims of cover crops reducing fertilizer needs raises red flags for some retailers.
“We had some retailers in Indiana who were worried that cover crops would cut into their fertilizer business,” recalled Kok. “We do have some growers who have dramatically cut back on fertilizer in corn and are still beating county averages. However, the market for cover crop seed and service has put their input providers in a better market than simply selling low-margin fertilizer. Plus, it shores up the retailer/customer relationship.”
It is that existing relationship that puts retailers in such a good position to fulfill customers’ needs and interests when it comes to cover crops, suggests Scott Wohltman, cover crop lead, La Crosse Forage & Turf. “The retailer owns the relationship, has the grower information and knows what is needed on the acres,” he said. “Still, there are problems with retailers who don’t feel comfortable with cover crops and farmers who may not feel comfortable bringing it up in conversation. Yet at the end of the day, growers will buy cover crop seed from someone. It might as well be the local retailer.”
START WITH EASY TO HANDLE OPTIONS
Steve Groff, Cover Crop Solutions founder, pointed to a strong correlation between adoption of no-till and adoption of cover crops in terms of how people think. “Each takes time and education, and each has a learning curve,” he said.
Kok pointed to parallels in introduction of the two practices. “When we first promoted no-till, there was a lot of talk about weeds and insect problems that never happened,” he recalled. “Ditto with cover crops. In both cases, growers need to see to believe.”
In the case of cover crop introduction, Groff advised starting with easy to handle options, such as oats and the trademarked tillage radish he co-developed. “Every farm has its unique challenges, but tillage radish is like a cover crop on training wheels,” he said. “It is easy to see the difference it makes in a field. It leaves virtually no residue in the spring.
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