One of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture's first efforts to actually help farmers through cost-share, outside of Clean Water Indiana funding and the Division of Soil Conservation, was a big hit. So many farmers responded that in just 24 hours, the state had to inform the local office facilitating the program to quit taking applications.
The Posey County Soil and Water Conservation District Coordinator headed up handling phone calls and information on the program. The offer was to assist farmers in 15 counties in west-central and southwest Indiana that was still in a D4 drought on Aug. 14 by cost-sharing on cover crops. The idea is that the cover crops will help tie up nutrients that would otherwise be lost over the upcoming winter, primarily nitrogen. So much of the corn crop in that area was zeroed out or yielded so poorly that nitrogen was not used. Until recent rains came, most of it had stayed put where it was applied. Some fields that weren't already destroyed or totally brown actually greened up somewhat after rains, but if black layer was already formed on the kernels, no nutrients could get into the corn grain itself. Nitrogen won't be removed in grain due to late rains unless the black layer was not yet formed.
Cover crops have been gaining steam as a practice over the past two years. This season, cover crops offer the possibility of capturing and improving soil conditions since the crop won't be returning much organic material. The assistance for these crops really lit a fuse – it's a red-hot topic, and the response to the ISDA program indicates that it won't likely cool off for a while.
Some 200 applications were accepted. Officials say they will review the applications and see which meet the criteria laid out for the program this week. Those who qualify for assistance should be notified sometime this week, spokespersons say.