Knowing the top five most challenging aspects of cover cropping, how can a producer eliminate or reduce these challenges? The following 10 questions can help producers determine the why, where, when and how to include cover crops into their current cropping system.
The questions are listed in the order of importance since it is important to take a systematic approach to selecting the right seed for an individual operation. By doing so, the challenges are reduced and will provide the best opportunity for successfully adding a cover crop in a crop rotation.
1. What is the ultimate goal? Build organic matter, produce nitrogen to reduce fertilizer costs, suppress weeds, etc.? This is the first and most important question that needs to be answered. Without answering this question accurately, a producer risks being unhappy with the results.
Once a goal has been established, the next series of questions can be answered.
2. What season(s) are necessary to best establish the species of cover crops needed to reach these goals?
3. Is the plan to seed cover crops for the whole farm or certain acres/fields?
4. Can this cover crop be included in the current rotation or do adjustments need to be made?
5. Can the chosen cover crop be seeded with another crop in the rotation or does it need to be seeded independently?
6. Can it be utilized for a cover crop as a forage, grain or pasture for additional income?
7. Determine how to terminate—winterkill, herbicide, no-till crimping, etc.
8. Can a diverse mixture of species be included or will a single species accomplish the goal?
9. What are the fertility and moisture requirements of the selected cover crop?
10. Where’s the best place to get seed, and when should it be ordered?