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Observations about tough cover crop year bring commentObservations about tough cover crop year bring comment

Hoosier Perspectives: Experienced farmer says to give cover crops another shot.

Tom J. Bechman

July 27, 2023

1 Min Read
A soybean field with cereal rye cover crop
TOUGH SLEDDING: Some soybeans planted into a cereal rye cover crop in dry conditions got off to a rough start in 2023. That’s a reason to rethink management, not a reason to ditch the system. Tom J. Bechman

If you saw Hoosier Perspectives online on July 17, you read an opinion piece about problems some encountered with cover crops this spring. Stay objective about cover crops in 2023 urges readers to consider pluses and minuses and look for management solutions before ditching cover crops because of one tough year. There is no doubt that due to the excessively dry start, getting crops established after cereal rye was difficult for many people this year.

A viewer saw the article and wanted to respond.

Dear editor:

I appreciated your story on cover crops in 2023. I’ve used cover crops on our grain farm since the mid ’80s, and I always have admitted that it’s kind of like playing with fire. I have some acres of prairie on our farm that occasionally benefit from a burn. I’ve had a few fires get away on me. 

Do I give up the management strategy of a burn? No, instead I figure out a better, safer way to burn. So, I felt you hit the nail on the head pointing out that farmers may need to assess risks better with the practice. Clean tillage in a storm-ridden spring likewise presents the risks of losing soil permanently from the farm.

I think USDA should actually reimburse farms that got burned this year as a result of the cover crop. That may be the best way to admit it isn’t perfect: “So, here you go, we got your back.” Thank you for the great story.

Jim Hebbe,
Green Lake, Wis.

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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