Lon Tonneson of Wallaces Farmer shares simple tips to keep the cost of your cover crops down. He uses Corsica, South Dakota farmer Jordan Reimnitz as a shining example. Reimnitz has been planting covers for eight years and uses them on all of his farmland. This is unusual for South Dakota, where cover crops aren’t always recommended. He has six recommendations for getting them to work successfully:
6 Simple Tips to Control Cover Crops Costs
- Plant rye. Limit planting of radish, legumes and others to after planting wheat, or when planning to graze the cover crop.
- Grow your own seed.
- Seed rye at 1/2 to 1 bushel per acre.
- Sell the rye seed you don’t need.
- Plant your covers with no-till and air drill.
- Plant rye only after corn and soybean harvests are complete. The rye may not do much in the fall, but should continue to grow when spring comes.
Adopting cover crops has benefitted the Reimnitz farm in multiple ways. He’s reduced runoff, the soil holds moisture better and it has more biodiversity. It’s also helped Reimnitz save on winter feed costs, and allowed him to get his cattle out of the lot earlier to allow his pastures to mature. Long term, he hopes that his soil becomes more resilient to changing weather conditions. He hopes to establish farming methods that are sustainable for the long term, and preserve the land for future generations.
Mike Wilson of Farm Futures shared similar tips from Dan Towery of Ag Conservation solutions in Lafayette, Indiana. He describes eight factors that can help cover costs pay off.
8 Tips to Make Cover Crops Pay Off
- Combine no-till and a mix of cover crops.
- If you’re just starting out, plant strips of covers in the same field so you have reliable scenarios to compare and adjust as needed.
- Start with no-till soybeans in cereal rye.
- Fertilizer costs will go down after a few years.
- You’ll see lower weed pressure.
- You’ll have few trips over the field and lower costs on weed control products.
- Allow cover crops to grow as long as possible to reap the most benefits.
- Better water holding capacity of the soil.
Like we always hear, a lot of the cost savings won’t be apparent immediately- and management strategies need to be adjusted to for your particular situation.
We published an article back in March that addressed the reasons why many Iowa farmers struggle to adopt cover crops called, Iowa State University Study Finds Return on Investment a Stumbling Block for Widespread Adoption of Cover Crops. An Iowa State University study pointed out the obvious; farmers aren’t going to invest in cover crops if they don’t at least break even. If they don’t get any return on investment (ROI), cover crops are a hard sell.
The ISU study found that operations that allowed livestock to graze cover crops saw a greater ROI. In addition, operations that took advantage of cost share opportunities were more likely to have positive returns in the short term.
Cover crops can be tricky, and successfully implementing them takes good management. If you’d like to learn more about using cover crops in your operation, read our articles, Get Started With Cover Crops, and Selecting Your Perfect Cover Crop Cocktail.
Image courtesy of the Money Guy Show