Cover Crop Decision Tool Available
By Alan Sundermeier
The Midwest Cover Crop Council (MCCC) Cover Crop Decision Tool is a web-based system to assist farmers in selecting cover crops to include in row crop rotations. The free web-based program is available at http://www.mccc.msu.edu.
The Cover Crop Decision Tool is an initiative by the MCCC to consolidate cover crop information by state to help farmers make cover crop selections at the county level. Information for each state/province is developed by a team of cover crop experts including university researchers, Extension educators, NRCS personnel, agriculture department personnel, crop advisors, seed suppliers and farmers. The team reviewed and refined information from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (http://www.sare.org) publication Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 3rd edition, to refine application within their state/province.
The information and ratings contained in the Cover Crop Decision Tool is the team consensus based on literature, research results, on-farm experience and practical knowledge. Information is given for considerations for using the cover crop in each location which include: Planting, Termination, Performance and Roles, Cultural Traits, Potential Advantages and Disadvantages.
Cover Crops are also rated for adaption to:
Nitrogen Source: Rates legume cover crops for their relative ability to supply fixed N. (Nonlegumes have not been rated for their biomass nitrogen content, so nonlegumes will not be displayed.)
Nitrogen Scavenger: Rates a cover crop’s ability to take up and store excess nitrogen. Bear in mind that the sooner you plant a cover after main crop harvest—or overseed a cover into the standing crop—the more N it will be able to absorb.
Soil Builder: Rates a cover crop’s ability to produce organic matter and improve soil structure. The ratings assume that you plan to use cover crops regularly in your cropping system to provide ongoing additions to soil organic matter.
Erosion Fighter: Rates how extensive and how quickly a root system develops, how well it holds soil against sheet and wind erosion and the influence the growth habit may have on fighting wind erosion.
The Cover Crop Decision Tool is a project of the MCCC. The MCCC is a diverse group from academia, production agriculture, non-governmental organizations, commodity interests, private sector, and representatives from federal and state agencies. The MCCC collaborates to promote the use of cover crops to address soil, water, air, and agricultural quality concerns in the Great Lakes and Mississippi river basins. MCCC member states/provinces include Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Manitoba, Ontario, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota.
Source: OSU Extension