Three Cover Crop Workshops aimed at Iowa producers are being held June 10 at Storm Lake, June 11 in Waterloo, and June 12 in Bettendorf. Cover crops figure heavily into improving Iowa's water quality. In addition to capturing nutrients that might be leached into the state's streams and rivers, cover crops can help control erosion, improve soil tilth, and boost per acre profits from corn and soybeans. However, they must be properly seeded and managed in order to achieve the desired benefits.
These three meetings are designed to familiarize farmers with the different types of cover crops available, and better understand the potential economic and water quality benefits of including them in their crop production programs, says Mick Lane, research communications manager for Cover Crop Solutions, Inc.
Topics to be covered include types of cover crops available, selecting a cover crop system that fits your operation, seeding techniques, potential use of cover crops for forage, and cover crop programs available in Iowa. The same program will be presented at all three meetings. Speakers will include Dr. Tracy Blackmer, director of research for Cover Crop Solutions, Steve Groff, farmer and co-founder of Cover Crop Solutions and Randy Ringler, cover crop specialist with the company.
Workshops are free to growers who preregister by June 6
The workshops are free to growers who preregister by Friday June 6. Registration at the door will be $20. Seating is limited. For more information or to register, go to the Cover Crop Solutions website.
Cover Crop Solutions LLC is a leading cover crop seed producer and agronomic solutions company. Earlier this year the company announced that Dr. Tracy Blackmer was named the company's director of research. Blackmer is leading the firm's cover crop, soil health and related scientific research projects throughout the Midwest, as well as other parts of North America. Blackmer's professional background includes holding a range of research positions, including director of research for the Iowa Soybean Association; technical manager for farm optimization for Monsanto; and soil scientist for USDA-ARS at the University of Nebraska.
What can you learn by attending these workshops?
"We will share with farmers some of the benefits a cover crop can have in Iowa," says Steve Groff. "We'll explain some of the specifics in selecting cover crops and the timing and all the little details involved. Cover cropping is a very simple idea but making a cover crop work to your best advantage is more complex, to make it work effectively."
"We are holding these workshops to deliver information about cover crop opportunities. We also want to hear from farmers as well," adds Groff. "Those who are starting to grow cover crops, what their successes are and what problems they've run into. We try to learn what we can as a cover cropping community because cover cropping is increasing nationwide and beyond. It certainly is a learning process. But there is a lot of evidence toward the need for more cover crops to be grown on many more acres in Iowa and the rest of the country. How to be successful with cover crops is what we are trying to teach and to learn as well."
Bringing cover crop expertise to the discussion table
"Dr. Tracy Blackmer is from Iowa, a respected researcher who heads our national research program," says Groff. "We are starting this year a research farm in central Iowa near Jefferson. We'll have 160 acres of cover crop plots to see what we can really do in Iowa. With the experience Tracy brings to this effort, it's advantageous to have a research farm so we can learn better and faster."
As a farmer himself, Groff has been using cover crops the past 20 years intensively. "I've done a lot of research on my farm in Pennsylvania," he says. "A lot of things we've learned in Pennsylvania do translate to other parts of the country but not everything does. That's another reason to establish a research farm in the Midwest—in Iowa."
Protect soil and feed cows at the same time
Cover Crop Solutions also has Randy Ringler on staff, an expert on the forage use aspects of cover crops. There can be a dual purpose in planting and growing cover crops as a forage source to feed cattle as well as for conservation use to save soil and improve water quality. So there's an opportunity for grazing or harvesting the cover crop for feed use in addition to growing them for conservation use.
There are many different kinds of cover crops to plant, choosing the one that's best for your particular farming operation and location is a key decision. Ideally it would be nice to find a cover crop that would get up and start growing quickly after corn or soybean harvest in the fall, and then hang in there protecting the soil from erosion all winter and then be dead by time spring rolls around. "We're working on strategies to do that. Come and find out what they are," says Groff. "We'll have three meetings across Iowa. First one is June 10 at Storm Lake, followed by June 11 at Waterloo and June 12 at Bettendorf. Go to www.covercropsolutions.com."