UW Cooperative Extension Cover Crop Workgroup Website

What are the economic costs of cover crops? What are the environmental and economic benefits? How do the nutrients from cover crops cycle through the soil? What is The New York Times saying about cover crops? All of this information and much more can be found on the UW Cooperative Extension Cover Crop Workgroup website, where UWEX personnel across Extension programs and disciplines provide resources regarding cover crops which will be frequently updated.

National Cover Crop Survey Seeks Farmers

Farmers are invited to complete this national online survey regarding their use of cover crops. This survey, conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) is used to collect data on the national use of cover crops and results will be released this summer in order to increase best management practices. Farmers who complete the survey are eligible for a drawing for one of two $100 Visa gift cards.

Webinar: Cover Crop Economic Decision Tool

The USDA-NRCS is hosting a webinar discussing a new cover crop economics decision tool on January 22, 2015 at 2 PM. The presenters will show participants how to enter cropping information into the Excel-based tool and interpret the output. The webinar can be accessed by following this link.

National Cover Crop Conference Recordings

Recordings from the 2014 National Cover Crops conference are now online.

From the National Cover Crop conference press release:

“Conference organizers are developing a formal list of recommended actions to increase cover crop adoption based on discussions at the conference and local forums. To see it when it becomes available, keep an eye on www.sare.org/covercropsconference or join SARE’s mailing list.”

New Fact Sheet: Herbicide Rotation Restrictions in Forage and Cover Cropping Systems

Please check out our new factsheet Herbicide Rotation Restrictions in Forage and Cover Cropping Systems.

Here is a short excerpt:

Designing effective herbicide programs while following pesticide label restrictions can be challenging in any cropping system. With rotations that include forage and cover crops, the challenge can be increased-especially when a planned cover crop might be needed as supplemental or emergency forage. In this case, the best approach is to be aware of crop rotation restrictions ahead of time and plan the most effective solutiuon for all possible scenarios.

For more information on this topic, please see another WCWS article- Is it legal to use a cover crop as a forage crop? Maybe not.

The Interseeder: Adding flexibility to cover crop seeding

In Wisconsin, it is not easy to get your cover crop seeded after corn silage, corn grain, or soybean harvests. From Penn State, researchers have been working on equipment modifications to seed a cover crop while side-dressing a corn crop with nitrogen and applying a POST herbicide.

Rolling and Crimping Cover Crops

Under Cover Farmers is a video featuring farmers discussing how they use cover crops and specifically rolling-crimping for termination in a conventional system. The video is 28 minutes in length and was produced by the USDA-NRCS.

It’s worth taking a long coffee break and hearing what these farmers have to say.

Choose your own adventure cover crop symposium

If you haven’t heard enough about cover crops, then check out University of Missouri’s Cover Crop Symposium. The symposium was held on January 14, 2014. All of the talks have been posted in PDF and video formats. For a complete listing, go here.

To hear some Missouri farmers discuss how they use cover crops on their farms and what questions they would like addressed by researchers, check out their discussion panel.

New USDA Cover Crop Termination Guidelines

The NRCS just released new cover crop termination guidelines. Recently, a webinar was held to discuss the new changes and answer questions. To access the archived webinar, “Cover Crops and Crop Insurance: Questions and Answers on USDA’s Cover Crop Termination Guides”, follow this link to the YouTube video. Most of the changes involve the termination guidelines for areas of the country with a summer fallow practice. The termination zone for Wisconsin is Zone 4 and the guidelines have not changed from the June 2013 to the December 2013 guideline release. To see the new termination guidelines released in December 2013 from the USDA-NRCS, go here. For the previous termination guidelines released in June 2013, go here.

In addition, the USDA’s Risk Management Agency just published a new cover crops fact sheet outlining their policy from a crop insurance standpoint. To access their fact sheet, go here. According to the RMA, a cover crop can be harvested for forage or grazed without violating your crop insurance policy. However, it is important to remember that when removing a cover crop as a forage crop the herbicide label restrictions must be followed when feeding to livestock. Also, removing biomass for forage may limit the benefits that you may expect for a cover crop. Researchers looking at crimson clover managed as a cover crop with no removal versus a spring forage harvest found that corn grain and yields were higher in the fields with the cover crop compared to the forage crop 1. However, in another study with cereal rye (Secale cereale) in a corn grain system, removal of the aboveground rye biomass did not affect the subsequent corn crop yield 2. Aside from yield, removing biomass for forage can impact soil health. In a 5 year study of three cover crops in a corn grain system, removal of the cover crop biomass reduced soil organic carbon and nitrogen 3.

References:

  1. Holderbaum, J.F.; Decker, A.M.; Meisinger, J.J.; Mulford, F.R.; Vough, L.R. Harvest management of a crimson clover cover crop for no-tillage corn production. 1990 Agronomy Journal 82(5): 918-923.
  2. Tollenaar, M.; Mihajlovic, M.; Vym, T.J. Corn growth following cover crops: influence of cereal cultivar, cereal removal, and nitrogen rate. 1993 Agronomy Journal 85(2): 251-255.
  3. Kuo, S.; Jellum, E.J. Influence of winter cover crop and residue managment on soil nitrogen availability and corn. 2002 Agronomy Journal 94(3): 501-508.