In every industry, business owners continue to seek ways to better their investments. Farmers are no different. Many farmers have discovered the benefits that come with using cover crops in their fields.
Ceres Solutions in this article shows how they are approaching farmers to talk about cover crops.
“Cover crops should be approached as a system with your end goal in mind,” states David Schroer, crop specialist for Ceres Solutions. There are many different types of cover crops. When determining what cover crops would be best suited for your farm needs, you should first ask yourself what you hope to gain. Each mix has a specific task to accomplish. Different cover crop mixes can address issues of nitrogen scavenging, nitrogen production, compaction busting, erosion control, water infiltration, livestock grazing, and even building organic matter.
“The benefits of cover crops are almost as broad as the different number of cover crop species we have to choose from,” said Schroer.
According to Schroer, when determining which cover crop is right for your farm, consider how intensely you want to manage that cover crop. Certain types of cover crops need to be planted in a timely manner. Some species will winter kill with a hard freeze, while others will live through a spring burn down.
“Winter is a great time to start thinking about what you want out of your cover crop,” said Schroer. It’s essential to develop a plan that includes your goals, problems or issues that need resolved, and the timeframe that these can be accomplished in. “Stand success or failure is usually hinged off having everything planned out with your crop specialist so you can get the seed in the field before that critical window in weather passes,” says Schroer. Winter kill varieties need to be planted earlier to get the maximum benefit before cold weather comes. Some hardier varieties can stand to be planted later into the fall after the crop harvest comes off.
Not only is it essential to start the planning process now to ensure your farm needs are met, but according to Schroer, it could also be a money saver. “Generally the earlier you order seed, the cheaper it is.”
So, are cover crops something that is right for your farm?
If you’re new to using cover crops, Schroer encourages you to start small. “Do a certain portion of your farm to see if managing cover crops is going to fit your operation.” He also suggests trying a diverse mix that grows well under adverse weather conditions.
Cover crops can have long term generational impacts of building soil structure, improving tilth, increasing water holding capacity and building organic matter. “The overall benefits of using cover crops on a farm are hard to measure because of the many intangible things cover crops can accomplish.”
The key part to developing a cover crop plan is to talk to an agronomist with knowledge, and that is why Ceres Solutions Crops Specialist are educated in all aspects of cover crops. They can provide more information about how cover crops can add benefits to a farming operation.