Preventive planting options for cover crops

Pros and cons of several cover crops for farmers making late planting decisions.

Due to excessive rain this season, many farmers are being faced with preventive planting decisions. Obviously, not planting a crop is hard on a farmer’s budget. Farmers who are faced with late planting decisions should consider planting a cover crop.

The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) has a cover crop tool that can help you make a cover crop decision for your preventive planting acres.

Since we have a large window for planting cover crops, several options are available to farmers. Here are some possible choices.

Non-legumes

Buckwheat

  • Quick growth, six to eight weeks.
  • Attracts beneficial insects.
  • Can be mowed before it reaches 25% bloom for quick regrowth or lightly tilled to reseed 75% bloom.

**Flowers early and can produce seed quickly and become a weed.Oats

  • Often reasonably priced.
  • Suppresses weeds.
  • Scavenges nutrients.
  • Winter kill.

**Stands often poor in hot, dry weather.Cereal rye

  • Scavenges excess nitrogen.
  • Erosion protector.
  • Suppresses weeds.
  • Non-host for sugarbeet cyst and soybean cyst nematodes.

**Can be expensive.
**Generally not planted in the summer.
Wheat

  • Chokes weeds.
  • Non-host for sugarbeet cyst nematode and soybean cyst nematode.
  • Loosens topsoil

**Delayed emergence.
**Generally not planted in the summer.

Tricale

  • Chokes weeds.
  • Loosens topsoil.
  • Non-host for sugarbeet cyst nematode and soybean cyst nematode.

**Seed can be expensive.
**Delayed emergence.
**Generally not planted in the summer.
Annual ryegrass

  • Erosion protector.
  • Scavenges nutrients.
  • Improves soil structure.
  • Suppresses weeds

**Can become a weed problem in wheat.
**Can be difficult to terminate.
Sorghum and sorghum grass

  • Loosens topsoil.
  • Chokes weeds.
  • Non-host for sugarbeet and soybean cyst nematodes.
  • Quick growth.
  • Good forage

**Very sensitive to frost.

Brassicas

Mustards

  • Chokes weeds
  • Alleopathy for weeds
  • Reduces some diseases
  • Attracts beneficial insects

**Small seed pods mature rapidly and could become weeds.

Oilseed radish

  • Rapid growth
  • Chokes weeds
  • Attract beneficial insects
  • Subsoiler

**Not recommended to seed before August 1 due to potential seed production.

Legumes

Crimson clover

  • Subsoiler
  • Chokes weeds
  • Poor host for soybean cyst nematode
  • Makes nitrogen

**Sometimes has a delayed emergence.

Field pea

  • Loosens top soil
  • Chokes weeds
  • Poor host for soybean cyst nematode
  • Nitrogen maker

**Susceptible to sclerotinia.
**Prefers cooler temperatures.

Red clover

  • Subsoiler
  • Loosens topsoil
  • Nitrogen maker
  • Non-host for sugarbeet and soybean cyst nematode

**Mature plants get woody.
**Hard seed, reseeds.

Since we have a larger window to seed cover crops this year, farmers have more choices than normal. If for preventive planting you are planting a cover crop and have crop insurance, please contact your agent to assure you are in compliance with the RMA rules.

Additional information on cover crops can be found in Managing Cover Crops Profitably, Third edition, at Sustainable Agriculture Network and MCCC.

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