Following weeks of above-average rainfall throughout the Midwest, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is granting Iowa farmers participating in state cost-share and most federal financial assistance programs an additional two weeks to plant their winter-hardy cover crop and still qualify for assistance. That’s according to an Oct. 18 announcement by NRCS.
The seeding date extension follows the Oct. 14 weekly USDA survey showing that only 19% of Iowa’s soybeans and 17% of corn were harvested. The five-year average is 51% of soybeans and 24% of corn harvested by this same date.
“That most recent weekly crop report shows Iowa’s corn harvest was four days behind average last week and soybeans were 11 days behind,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “This fall’s harvest is the slowest bean harvest on record for Iowa. The USDA extension for seeding cover crops will give farmers more opportunity to get their winter-hardy cover crops seeded yet this fall.”
More time to plant cover
State conservationist Kurt Simon, who heads NRCS in Iowa, says the two-week extension should allow many more farmers time to get cover crops planted. However, he emphasizes the importance of planting them as soon as possible.
“There is a very important window right now to get winter-hardy cover crops established this fall,” Simon says. “The sooner cover crops are planted and get established in the ground this fall, the more benefits they will provide for crop production, soil health, erosion control and water quality protection in the winter and spring.”
Examples of winter-hardy cover crops include cereal rye, winter wheat, triticale and hairy vetch.
Deadlines by location
The revised cover crop seeding dates for winter hardy cover crops are:
• Zone 1 (northern Iowa) Nov. 5
• Zone 2 (central Iowa) Nov. 12
• Zone 3 (southern Iowa) Nov. 19
Iowa cover crop planting zones
Farmers approved for financial assistance who are still unable to plant cover crops by these dates should contact their local NRCS office.