Storm damage that has occurred this summer to cornfields in some counties in Iowa is an opportunity to seed cover crops such as tillage radish and turnips. This reminder comes from Sarah Carlson, director of research and policy for Practical Farmers of Iowa, located in Ames.
In Iowa the corn and soybean two-year rotation does not offer much time for trying out or adding a cover crop like tillage radish or turnips, says Carlson. In Indiana where many farmers still plant a 3-year rotation like corn, soybeans and wheat there is more time following wheat harvest in mid-July for farmers to be able to plant and successfully grow a sod-busting cover crop like tillage radish.
Early August is a perfect planting date for tillage radish as cover crop
If your farm was unfortunately in the way of the powerful July 11 wind storm this summer and you end up baling the laid down corn that isn't recovering or the corn that had a lot of green snap, and you end up having bare acres--don't forget about cover crops. Early August is a perfect planting date for tillage radish, says Carlson, and with the good growing conditions in August and September the plant can produce tubers like the one in the accompanying picture.
Soybeans haven't been blown down like corn has, as beans don't grow as tall and aren't as susceptible to wind damage. However, if for some reason you have a drowned out bean field or have to bale the soybean plants as forage, you should consider planting a cover crop in those fields, too.
NRCS cover crop program is available in 29 counties in Iowa
If tillage radish isn't something you are interested in planting, you should also be aware of a program available through the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in 29 counties in Iowa. Some of those counties were in the path of the recent summer storms.
"Practical Farmers of Iowa encourages farmers in these 29 Iowa counties to take advantage of a special winter hardy cover crop program available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service," says Carlson.
Sign-ups for the NRCS cost-sharing program will be open until August 1 and available in the following counties: all of Boone, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Emmet, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Humboldt, Kossuth, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Story, Webster, Winnebago, and Wright counties; and parts of Carroll, Cerro Gordo, Clay, Dallas, Dickinson, Franklin, Guthrie, Hardin, Jasper, Marshall, Osceola, Polk, Sac and Worth counties.
Sign-up for NRCS cost-sharing program now; deadline is August 1
John Gilbert an integrated crop and livestock farmer near Iowa Falls in north central Iowa says, "We are interested in experimenting with new cover crops we haven't tried before. We are looking at changing our crop rotation and want to see what cover crop opportunities exist. The notion of keeping the ground covered during winter and providing early spring feed for our dry cows makes cover crops a good option."
Winter hardy cover crops include cereal rye, winter wheat, winter triticale, hairy vetch, red clover and sweet clover. Cover crops help reduce soil erosion, limit nitrogen leaching, suppress weeds, increase soil organic matter and improve overall soil quality. Small grain cover crops increase surface cover, anchor corn and soybean residues, increase water infiltration and reduce erosion.
For more information visit your local NRCS office in the participating counties or contact Sarah Carlson at Practical Farmers of Iowa at 515-232-5661 or [email protected].