Expert: Cover Crops Benefit Soil Health, Water, Environment

extension cover cropsNorthwest Iowa — A few weeks ago before spring field work started, a carpet of green covered many northwest Iowa fields. Most of that green carpet was cereal rye, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Agronomist Joel De Jong.

De Jong says most of this green carpet was a cover crop. He says interest in cover crops has increased over the past several years.

He says it’s also been recognized that cover crops and some other practices really help improve surface water quality.

He says there are many different cover crops used throughout the country.

He says cover crops can be used before corn or soybeans, and that sometimes air-seeding is attempted, but that doesn’t work as well as drilling it in after the main crop has been harvested.

DeJong says that while it may cost money in the short-term, and immediate yield benefits are inconsistent at best, most farmers who are planting cover crops want to care for the soil resource so it’s healthy in the future. He says long-term results do show some increase in yield.

He says there are also some crop insurance rules that you need to follow if you’re using cover crops, so be sure to contact your insurance agent if you plan to plant a cover crop. For more information you can contact De Jong at the Plymouth County Extension office at (712) 546-7835.

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