Deadline to seed cover crops extended

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and State Agronomist Barb Stewart with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announced recently that farmers participating in state cost-share and most federal financial assistance programs now have until November 15, 2014 to plant winter hardy cover crops and still qualify for assistance.

The seeding date is extended following the announcement that only 81 percent of Iowa’s soybeans and 36 percent of corn were harvested as of Sunday. “The crop report indicates both corn and soybean harvests are behind the five-year average,” said Northey. “Extending the deadline to November 15 will allow additional farmers to get cover crops planted while still benefiting water quality.”

Winter hardy cover crops include cereal rye, winter wheat, triticale, among others. An extension was given to farmers last year, too, following a late harvest. “Late seeded winter hardy cover crops provided adequate spring growth for erosion control last year when allowed to grow to at least eight inches tall before termination,” said Stewart.

Guidance from Iowa State University confirmed cover crops planted through the November 15 deadline still have the potential to provide a substantial reduction in nutrient losses and soil erosion.

The following applies to cover crops planted in the extension period (October 16 – November 15):

• Cover crops will be seeded as soon as possible after harvest of the principal crop.

• The cover crop to be seeded must be winter hardy (i.e. cereal rye, winter wheat, triticale).

• The cover crop will be no-till drilled in crop residue.

• Allow cover crop to add growth as long as possible in the spring prior to termination to maximize benefits.  (Must be allowed to grow until at least eight inches for those participating in federal programs.)

• The extension does not apply for all federal programs. Contact your NRCS office if you have questions.

Farmers approved for cost-share assistance who are still unable to plant cover crops should contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District office.