DES MOINES - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service is encouraging Iowa farmers to explore the benefits of planting a cover crop on fields that will go unplanted this year.
"Through this difficult situation, farmers with unplanted fields will have to weigh their program and insurance options," said Barb Stewart, state agronomist with NRCS in Iowa. "We encourage producers to also assess agronomic options for ensuring long-term productivity."
Stewart said planting a cover crop will help producers with unplanted fields capture applied nutrients, fix nitrogen, build organic matter, control weeds, reduce erosion, and improve soil health and biology during the remainder of the season.
"Iowa farmers can build considerable yield potential for following year crops," she said.
Cover crop selection and management should focus on maximizing both above- and below-ground biomass, Stewart said. This allows for nutrient cycling as deep in the soil profile as possible.
Iowa NRCS recently developed a fact sheet for planting cover crops on prevented planting fields. The fact sheet includes a table with diverse cover crop mixes to address specific natural resource concerns.
This fact sheet is available in the "agronomy" section of the Iowa NRCS website at www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov or it can be attained at a local NRCS office.
Producers are advised to check with their crop insurance agents on prevented planting requirements and harvest restrictions for cover crops.