Tips for effective crop management in Iowa
Summertime is usually a period when farmers begin to devise means of managing their crops. It is especially the case in Iowa. These management practices will depend on the planting date and the goals set up by the landowner or farmer.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship requires that farmers consult with their Agronomist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, or insurance agent to maximize cover crop benefits while protecting the yields from their cash crops. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship offers some tips for effective crop management.
1. Evaluate for winter kill
Survey the cover crop fields and look out for any trace of green plant tissue. If there is no visible green material within the soil's surface or if the leaves are brown, the plant may have been winter-killed. Oats and oilseed radish usually winter kill and do not need to be terminated. In spring, destroy winter wheat, winter cereal rye, and winter triticale.
2. Consider termination options
The Conservation Systems Best Management Practices Manual contains termination guidelines that reduce the impact on cash crops. While Tillage is sometimes adopted, planter challenges may happen, so it should be left out. Tillage also affects the cover crops residue, making it less effective in soil erosion and suppressing weeds.
If you use herbicides to terminate the crop, use them when the crop is growing actively during the middle of the day and when overnight temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit
3. Give room for growth.
For better results, let cover crops grow for as long as possible. Plan to terminate your cover crops towards soybean planting season dates. If you are planting corn for the first time, either as a landowner or farmer, after an overwintering cover crop, terminate 10 to 14 days before the estimated corn planting date.
4. Adjust planter setups
Examine the soil conditions in a field planted after a winter cereal cover crop. It will likely be different from a tilled or no-till field. Evaluate the planter setup and ensure that the seed trench is closed properly at planting and seeds are placed at the exact depth to avoid damages due to exposure.
5. Understand crop insurance requirements
Crop insurance plans determine the termination of cover crops. The timelines of these policies will vary based on the nature of the insurance policy, planting zone, and tillage practices. Landowners and farmers should discuss with their insurance agents for more on these policies.
6. Plan ahead for future planting
As a landowner or farmer, you should talk to your Agronomist or cover crop seed representative about integrating cover crops into your field. These crop management plans need to be adjusted based on the kind of cover crop planted and manner of termination. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship offers annual funding to assist landowners and farmers in integrating cover crops into their farming operations.
Considerations for getting started with cover crops
Over the past decade, farmers have introduced cover crops in their farm operations to reduce the loss of nitrogen and phosphorus on their farm fields. Besides, lots of research has documented the ability of cover crops to reduce erosion, enhance soil health, build up or recycle nutrients, provide forage, and assist with weed control. Cover crops are not "add on," as using them requires a complete assessment of your cropping system practices. Changes in timing, logistics, priorities, and operations are necessary for successfully implementing cover crops into your cropping system. You need to alter the timing of nutrient application, the timing of weed control and herbicides use, type of tillage practices used, and time of planting and harvest of main crops. There are tips for farmers and agronomists new to cover crops to get onboard.
· Start small
Researchers from Iowa State University's Department of Agronomy recommend increasing your scale as your comfort level increases. It reduces the risk and lessens the additional time needed for cover crop implementation. Irregular fields, smaller fields, or erosion-prone, nitrogen leaching portions are good places to start. Select a field that is easy to view and monitor the fall, winter, and spring.
· Locate easy entry points
In the first year of using cover crops, identify situations, fields, rotations that make cover crops easier to use by giving you more time to search for them, reducing risks and cost, and providing notable benefits. When you plant cover crops after corn silage, seed corn, early maturing soybean, small grains, or drowned out areas of fields, it creates more time for plant growth. Other easy entry points are fields with proximity to livestock operations that are conducive for forage harvest. They give room for learning the aspects of the cropping system that need tweaking to introduce cover crops.
· Seed selection
Beginners should make seed selection inexpensive using spring small grains or oats before corn and winter small grains before soybean. The moment you are comfortable using cover crops, consider using other species or mixtures. Some of the questions you should consider are: what's the aim of using the cover crop, will the cover crop grow and overwinter, how will it be planted and terminated, and what, the current and subsequent crop is? The answers will lead you to spring cereal grains, winter cereal grains, Brassicas, legumes, or perennial grasses used as cover crops. Winter cereal crops often have good fall and spring biomass growth and overwinter. Spring cereal grains thrive well in the fall and winter kill. Legumes grow slowly but can fix nitrogen and overwinter
· Timing of seeding
The timing of seeding varies depending on the species of the cover crop, fall frost dates, and the planting method implemented. Plant Cover crops that do not overwinter early to allow time for adequate fall growth. During spring, those planted later will continue growing.
Contact us today at Midwest Land Management for all you want to know about crop management and farm insurance. We are fully licensed to serve clients in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.