INDIANAPOLIS -- Farmers all over Indiana are realizing the benefits of cover crops, even in a wet year.
Fields with cover crops may dry out earlier than fields left bare over the winter, due to their ability to stabilize wet fields by taking up moisture.
State Agronomist Barry Fisher with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service said, "In a wet year, cover crop growth can be much farther along than planned, so the management decisions on how to kill the cover crop have to be adjusted. Under these conditions, a faster acting herbicide may be needed.
"However, cover crops are still worth the investment because they stabilize moisture levels and reduce erosion, scouring and nutrient losses."
Cover crops are grown between regular crop rotations like corn, soybean and wheat. Examples of cover crops are annual ryegrass, crimson clover, oats, oil-seed radishes, and cereal rye.
Cover crops are not intended as a harvestable crop, but are grown to enhance productivity. Benefits of cover crops include improving soil structure by increasing soil organic matter and root penetration; protecting otherwise bare soil from wind and water erosion; using nitrogen left in the soil; preventing it from polluting waterways; and cycling nutrients back into the soil that will be available for corn and soybean crops.
Fisher said that when used as part of a conservation cropping system, cover crops increase soil productive health and decrease risk, no matter what the conditions.
"Fields have less erosion and better moisture management with a cover crop, lessoning risks from drought or flooding," Fisher said. "Fields in long term no-till with cover crops made it through last year's drought with higher yields than expected."
Information on cover crops and conservation cropping systems may be accessed at www.in.gov/isda/ccsi/. For more information on cover crop management techniques, visit the Purdue Extension Weed Control Guide at www.byny.purdue.edu/Pubs/WS/WS-16/WS-16.....
For assistance with conservation planning producers should contact their NRCS district conservationist at a USDA Service Center, which may be found at www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/directory/f....
The local information for Clay County is:
* NRCS -- District Conservationist (Doris Scully),
* ISDA -- Resource Specialist (Dale Walker),
* Clay County Soil and Water Conservation District Technician (David Schroer), and
* Clay County Soil and Water Conservation District Coordinator (Jennifer McKee).
The office is location at 955 W. Craig Ave., Brazil. For more information, call 448-1108 Ext. 3.