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Serving: IN
winter-killed oat cover crop
SIMPLE START: Someone just trying cover crops might want to consider oats or perhaps oats and radishes. This January photo shows oats that had already winter-killed.

Council develops ‘recipes’ for cover crop beginners

The Midwest Cover Crops Council targets people who are hesitant to try cover crops.

Not everyone is ready to plant green into cover crops. Some people haven’t yet tried cover crops, even though they may have erosive soil that could benefit from something green growing all year. Others have tried them but weren’t satisfied with the results. Recognizing this, the Midwest Cover Crops Council developed what it calls simple “recipes” for growing cover crops.

“Our goal was to put together easy-to-access information that could help someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with cover crops yet get started,” says Anna Morrow with the MCCC, based near Shelbyville, Ind. “We recognize that not everyone is at the level where they’re ready for cocktail mixes. Some people using those mixes very successfully have been no-tilling and using cover crops for a very long time.”

A former Purdue University Extension county ag educator, Morrow has firsthand experience working with farmers and cover crops. It’s one of the qualifications that made her a fit for the only paid position within the MCCC. The council is a diverse group of university and industry professionals and farmers who believe cover crops are a way to help protect natural resources, Morrow says. There are currently 12 participating U.S. states, primarily in the Midwest and Upper Midwest, plus Ontario in Canada.

Educational tools
Many people have used the group’s cover crop selector tool in the past, Morrow says. It considers your cropping and tillage program, potential planting dates and other factors, and helps you select cover crops and seeding rates. Find the tool and a lot more information about MCCC at  

You can find the newest resource offered by MCCC, Cover Crop Recipes, on the website. So far, there are recipes for four states: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and North Dakota.

“We work closely with the Extension specialists in each state to put these together,” Morrow explains. “Illinois just came on line.

“[The recipes are] in a similar format each time, so they’re easy to use. There is a recipe in three of the four states for following corn and going to soybeans, and following soybeans going to corn. Which crop you are following and which crop you are planting into next makes a big difference on how you handle cover crops.”

For example, the recipe for cover crops following corn and going to soybeans in Indiana talks primarily about cereal rye. It includes suggested seeding rates and information on when to best time planting.

If you farm in Iowa, the recipe following corn is similar but geared to Iowa conditions. For corn following soybeans in Iowa, the recipe suggests starting with oats the first year. In both Indiana and Illinois, the recipe for corn after soybeans the first year includes oats and radishes. Those are all crops that winter-kill, making termination unnecessary.  

TAGS: Conservation
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