USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is encouraging Iowa farmers to explore the benefits of planting a cover crop on fields that will go unplanted this year.
This has been the wettest spring on record in Iowa, delaying planting and causing farmers to have to make some tough agronomic and economic decisions. Many have had to decide whether to replant the drowned out spots in cornfields, or switch to soybeans if the herbicide they already applied allows that. Or they may have to switch to soybeans. Or they may have to just not plant any crop and take the "prevented planting" option offered by their crop insurance company.
"Through this difficult situation, farmers with unplanted fields will have to weigh their program and crop insurance options," says Barb Stewart, state agronomist with NRCS in Iowa. "We encourage producers to also assess agronomic options for ensuring long-term productivity."
Cover crops can help save soil now and build yield potential for future years
Stewart says planting a cover crop will help producers with unplanted fields capture applied nutrients, fix nitrogen, build organic matter, control weeds, reduce erosion and improve soil health and biology during the remainder of the 2013 growing season. "Iowa farmers can build considerable yield potential for following year crops," she says.
Cover crop selection and management should focus on maximizing both above- and belowground biomass, Stewart says. This allows for nutrient cycling as deep in the soil profile as possible.
Iowa NRCS recently developed a fact sheet for planting cover crops on prevented planting fields. The fact sheet includes a table with diverse cover crop mixes to address specific natural resource concerns. This fact sheet is available in the "Agronomy" section of the Iowa NRCS website or at your local NRCS office.