There are a lot of choices associated with planting cover crops—species (and even variety!), planting method, date, termination plan—and it all has to fit with your cash crop management system. Incorporating cover crops into your system could change your tillage regime, fertility, and weed control for cash crops.
As spring planning gives way to spring planting, it’s a good time to consider how implementing cover crops can work on your farm. Below are some resources on cover crops, many newly updated from the U of M and regional partners.
- U of M Extension Cover Crops web pages. Extension’s website has lots of useful information on cover crops, including the benefits of cover crops, how to evaluate the herbicides in your rotation for interaction with cover crops, and termination options. This site includes research updates and recommendations as they come out, so check back!
- The Minnesota Cover Crop Research Guide (funded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture). The Minnesota Office for Soil Health has maps of local cover crop help, species-by-species summaries based on Minnesota cover crop research, and a short guide with a list of questions to keep in mind if you’re planting cover crops for the first time.
- Midwest Cover Crops Council Cover Crop Decision Tool. This tool offers an interactive, visual method to evaluate different cover crop species in your cash crop rotation. The interface and data have recently been updated and information is provided on individual species based on SARE’s Managing Cover Crops Profitably publication, another great free, online resource.
- Want to talk to a farmer who’s done it? Join the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition and look for a mentor in your area. They have farmer mentors implementing cover crops with and without livestock, with different tillage regimes, and across the state. The Sustainable Farming Association and the Land Stewardship Project also both have local field days and networking events around Minnesota.
There’s no one perfect cover crop system—the best one will be the one that you can profitably and effectively implement on your farm. Contact your local extension agent, SWCD, or NRCS staff for technical help—and don’t forget to ask about applying for state or federal cost-share so you can experiment with less risk.