Demand for Warm Season Cover Crop Seeds Surges

As if farmers in the Midwest didn’t have enough to contend with, now there is news that warm season cover crop seeds may be tough to come by. Cover crop seed companies say they secured their inventories earlier than usual but that some varieties could run out because of record high demand.

It is no surprise that there is an increased interest in cover crop seed. Currently, approximately 16 million acres of corn crop that was intended by farmers to be planted has not been because of soggy fields. Those farmers are now trying to secure warm season cover crop seed which includes millet, sorghum and Sudan grasses.

While the flooding certainly accelerated cover crop seed demand, cover crop acreage has been growing steadily on its own before the floods hit. The USDA’s 2017 Census of Ag data reported that 15 million acres of cover crops were planted in 2017. That’s a 50% increase in five years. That number is expected to continue to increase with farmers seeing the benefits of having cover crops on their land throughout the year.

Cover crop grasses can take the place of corn stocks and alfalfa for livestock in an already tight market. But there are several other important reasons to plant warm season cover crops. Here is a list of just a few of those reasons:

  1. Build organic matter in soil
  2. Improve nutrient cycling
  3. Improve the ability of soil to take in water
  4. Reduce erosion

Soybean planting also is running behind but many farmers with unplanted corn acres aren’t necessarily switching to soybeans. That’s because the prevented planting corn payment will be higher than the value of soybeans.

No matter what farmers decide to do when it comes to water-logged acres, Ag experts caution that compliance with crop insurance requirements must be adhered to. Crop insurance agents can help farmers understand their options and compliance issues.

Farmers who plan on planting warm season cover crops would be wise to order their seeds as soon as possible. While seed companies say that they have yet to run out of any species, orders are picking up with millets and Sudan grasses the most popular species.