By Curt Wohleber
Rain and flooding prevented many Missouri farmers from planting corn and soybean this year. Now farmers want to protect these unplanted fields by seeding a cover crop.
Cover crops do just that: The plants cover the ground, and their roots stabilize the soil. Cover crops provide a simple and natural way to reduce soil erosion, maintain soil health, suppress weeds and protect water quality, said Rob Kallenbach, University of Missouri agronomist and interim associate dean for agriculture and environment extension.
The large number of “prevented planting” acres this year means that seeds for many common cover crops are in short supply, Kallenbach said. That situation prompted MU Extension agronomists to take a close look at the data on several cover crops.
In a June 28, 2019, letter to Missouri farmers(opens in new window), Kallenbach reports that the agronomists “concluded that corn, soybean and grain sorghum – in addition to several other plant species – can be used appropriately as cover crops to meet the soil conservation needs present in 2019.”
The issue is important to farmers with prevented planting coverage through the USDA’s federal crop insurance program. Farmers must follow USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) provisions regarding cover crops to remain eligible for prevented planting payments.
RMA has posted updated provisions on cover crops and prevented planting insurance at rma.usda.gov/en/Fact-Sheets/National-Fact-Sheets/Prevented-Planting-Insurance-Provisions-Flood(opens in new window).
Kallenbach highlights some of the key provisions for 2019: Cover crops may not be planted until after the late planting period; no grain or seed may be harvested from the cover crop; and farmers must wait until Sept. 1 to hay, graze or cut a cover crop for silage (this earlier date is for 2019 only).
“Check with RMA or your crop insurance agent before planting or harvesting cover crops,” Kallenbach said. Farmers enrolled in cover crop incentive programs with the Natural Resources Conservation Service need to follow the separate rules provided by that agency.
MU Extension agronomists intend to issue more detailed guidance and recommendations about cover crops on prevented planting acres soon. MU provides extension specialists statewide trained in agriculture to assist farmers and farm families needing additional information, Kallenbach said. Contact your local MU Extension center to find out more.