Terminating Cover Crops, It's Just A Matter Of Time

Iowa Farm Scene

To stay eligible for crop insurance coverage on corn or soybeans following a cover crop, you need to kill the cover by May 10.

Published on: April 5, 2013

Best bet is to talk with your local NRCS office or with your crop insurance agent for detailed information or if you have questions.

How do you validate that you've terminated a cover crop by May 10?
RMA officials say they want producers to have the ability to use cover crops and still be able to get crop insurance on the corn and beans planted following the cover crop. The May 10 deadline is based on the cropping season for the Upper Midwest. Different regions have different deadlines. Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska, for example, have deadlines that are a little later than the deadline for Iowa.

There are different methods to terminate a cover crop -- tillage or herbicide application are two of them. Also, how do you validate that you have terminated a cover crop by May 10? Livestock producers want to be able to use the cover crop for forage as long as possible, but being able to hay or graze those acres is not considered a technique for termination. "So cattle producers after they hay or graze the cover crop will either need to disk the soil or spray the field with some type of herbicide that is compatible with the second crop that will be planted," notes Stevenson, who has talked to RMA officials about this issue.

So what is the verification process? Your crop insurance company will need to know the date when you terminate the cover crop. They'll want to know that you did indeed get it terminated prior to May 10. To provide that information, you should contact your crop insurance agent when you terminate your cover crop, says Stevenson.

Cattle producers would like to see RMA extend termination deadline past May 10
There is also another issue being raised. Some cattle producers want RMA to extend that termination deadline date past May 10. Because of the continuing drought and a reduced hay crop last year, not much forage has been available for grazing. Hay is in short supply and prices are high. It would help livestock producers if they could keep these cover crops around a little longer in the spring to use them for haying or grazing.


Thinking About A Cover Crop? Start With Developing A Plan
Taking time to design your cover crop plan will increase the successful establishment of the crop and potentially allow for improved staggering of fall harvest.


As a soil conservation practice that also helps protect water quality by reducing runoff from corn and soybean fields, cover crops have the potential to be used on a lot more acreage in the state of Iowa. Cover crops are a soil conservation practice that is recommended as part of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Cover crops are one of the management techniques that actually reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from fields.

Being able to provide the soil conservation and water quality benefits gives more producers an incentive to plant more cover crops. So would USDA/RMA extending the cover crop termination deadline, or allowing farmers to hay or graze those acres a little longer. That would be beneficial to Iowa producers. But for now, May 10 is the deadline to terminate those cover crops if you are in Iowa, Minnesota or Wisconsin.