Some Farmers Considering Corn or Soybeans as Cover Crops


Some farmers are considering corn or soybeans as cover crops thanks to a practice recently approved by the Extension Field Crop and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This approval was welcome news as corn and soybeans work well as cover crops since they canopy quickly, reduce erosion and scavenge nutrients.

The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) recently announced that farmers who plant cover crops on prevented plant acres have until Nov. 1 to chop, ensile, hay or graze those fields. RMA will allow farmers to make forage on prevented plant acres after Sept. 1.

Late planting dates are just one of the additional agronomic recommendations for this fall’s forage harvest. Experts says that even if weather conditions are normal going forward, adapted corn hybrids might still fail to reach the one-half milk line before a killing frost occurs. And when silage is made too wet it results in seepage and poor quality.

While green chopping standing corn is an option, daily harvest requires day-to-day uniformity of the ration being fed to livestock. Wet soil conditions interrupt this process.

Short-season hybrid use for a given region is recommended. However, when short-season hybrids are planted late they have a risk of higher levels of infection from foliar disease. This means scouting for disease throughout the growing season is essential. It also is important not to fertilize, especially with nitrogen. Further, if forage is the goal, seeding rates should not be increased.

Producers should keep in mind that stored grain with GMO traits cannot be used as a lower cost alternative seed. Check with your seed dealer to find out if the seed corn you want to plant is approved as cover crop. Finally, in terms of early canopy closure, 15” rows are the best way to go.

Soybean seed that cannot be returned to the dealer is suitable as a cover crop after confirming that the GMO-traited seed varieties are approved for such use. Saving stored, treated soybean seed until 2020 planting will have lower germination potential and less seed treatment efficacy, therefore, is not advisable. It is important to consider future rotation of fields when weighing the pros and cons of corn or soybeans as cover crops.

Finally, farmers should always keep their Crops Insurance Agent informed of their plans and make sure those plans get final approval.