Why you should plant cover crops when taking prevented planting

Why you should plant cover crops when taking prevented planting

After a very wet spring flooded many Midwest farmers, the region’s summer weather so far has not done much to decrease the drenching of fields. Many fields are simply too wet to plant.

Deadlines to report prevented planting are fast approaching, and many farmers and landowners have found themselves speaking with crop insurance agents, farm managers and fellow producers about what their next steps could be.

While those conversations are taking place, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach recently published information regarding cover crops. ISU Extension highly recommends planting a cover crop or an emergency forage crop instead of simply letting farm fields remain fallow throughout the duration of the summer season.

Let’s take a look at why this is good advice.

What you should know about prevented planting

First, let’s talk prevented planting.

Prevented planting is the official term used when an insured crop is not planted with the proper equipment by the final planting date or during the late planting period. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), farmers have to be prevented from planting due to an “insured cause of loss that is general to the surrounding area and that prevents other producers from planting acreage with similar characteristics.”

The final planting dates and the late planting time periods will vary by crop type and by area. Farmers who aren’t sure of these dates should review their policy or contact their insurance agent for more information, the USDA advises.

Crop insurance policies that include prevented planting can be a very beneficial for farmers who have been prevented from planting due to flooding. This coverage can be valuable in these cases. However, a farmer’s eligibility for prevented planting is determined on a case-by-base basis. Loss determination is based on the specific circumstances of each producer because conditions that may open up prevented planting options can vary between geographic areas.

Review additional USDA guidelines and details to learn more about prevented planting and flooding.

Important prevented planting provisions to consider

As shared by ISU Extension, it is important to remember that, under prevented planting provisions, a cover crop or emergency forage that a farmer plants can’t be grazed or harvested for forage until after September 1. The cover crop or emergency forage also can’t ever be harvested for grain without a reduction to prevent plant coverage payment.

ISU Extension rightly recommends that farmers discuss their prevented planting and cover crop options and rules they must follow with their crop insurance providers.

Benefits of cover crops

Practical Farmers of Iowa has documented the many benefits that cover crops can provide for farm fields. The amount of cover crops in Iowa has increased quite a bit in the last few years. Practical Farmers provides a great resource for learning more about cover crops.

Cover crops are typically small grains, legumes, brassicas and others that farmers can plant between cash crop seasons. They promote a living cover on the fields.

According to Practical Farmers, studies have shown that cover crop plants can help farmers protect their land’s soil and water quality, reduce chemical input costs, improve farm resiliency, boost yields, increase the amount of forage available, and improve wildlife habitat.

Recommended cover crops

Stephen K. Barnhart, Iowa State University Department of Agronomy, has in the past made recommendations and provided his thoughts on what cover crops could be considered for planting due to prevented planting situations.

Spring cereals

This first category recommended by Barnhart includes oats, spring triticale, barley and spring wheat. If these are planted in late June, Barnhart writes that they will mature, then likely shatter seed around mid- to late-summer. The shattering could produce a few volunteer plants in the fall.

Spring cereals planted in late summer could grow decently in the fall, but then could also be at risk of exposure to frost.

Winter cereals

The second category of winter cereals includes rye, winter triticale and winter wheat. If these are planted in June, then they would provide some forage after November 1. If any of these are planted in late summer, then Barnhart suggests they should overwinter OK, however they would not produce high levels of fall harvestable growth. This could be good for grazing.


The third and final primary cover crop recommendation is ryegrass. If planted in June, then ryegrass would probably be OK, Barnhart writes. This timing should allow for some forage to be present for grazing in November. There could even be enough for mechanical harvest.

Further recommendations

In June, Barnhart does not recommend planting perennial forage grasses and legumes for hay fields - unless, he says, there is adequate season-long vegetation and competition control to maintain light availability for the forage seedlings. Those perennial forage grasses and legumes, including for cover, for future hay fields could be planted in early- to mid-August. Buckwheat is another option for providing summer cover and can hold nutrients already existing in the soil.

Barnhart also states that, aside from economic decisions, farmers considering their planting options should consider how the field is managed in the summer, whether the cover crop will winterkill or remain into the next growing season, availability of seeds, pre-applied nitrogen, susceptibility of any cover crops chose to carry over herbicides and forage quality after Nov. 1.

Read Barnhart’s complete recommendations on cover crop considerations.

Ready to talk crop insurance?

One of the many services offered by Midwest Land Management is a one-on-one, professional approach to crop insurance to all landowners and farmers in our trade territory. Working closely with insurance providers, we provide our clients with accurate and updated crop insurance information.

Crop insurance options are always changing. As we have learned this year, so are weather conditions and planting circumstances. Crop insurance helps protect against unexpected losses from these events that farmers can’t control. However, you can control the decisions you make ahead of time about crop insurance.

Contact Midwest Land Management today if you are ready to talk in more detail about the latest crop insurance information and other farm management services.