There is a quick-start instruction manual for farmers who want to start growing cover crops.
The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) is offering free downloadable PDFs explaining how and why to add cover crops to a corn-soybean rotation.
Charles Ellis, a University of Missouri Extension field specialist in agricultural engineering who also serves on the council's advisory board, says the site offers a how-to instruction guide for eight states — including Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota.
"Planting a cover crop ahead of a soybean cash crop is often the easiest way to introduce cover crops into your rotation," Ellis says.
One of the Missouri recipes, MU Extension publication MX81, looks at cereal rye, which proves to be a good choice before soybeans because typical fall conditions in Missouri provide a suitable planting window for that cover crop, he says.
But Ellis discourages cereal rye before corn for beginning cover crop growers because it requires changes in corn nitrogen management and other adjustments.
Instead, the council suggests a two-way mix of oats and radishes for spring termination or a two-way mix of oats and crimson clover for better erosion control and living roots in the spring before corn. MU Extension publication MX82 details how to do this.
The cover crop recipe guides tell how to plan for cover crops, choose corn and soybean hybrids, and purchase seed. They also explain crop sensitivity to selected hybrids and effects of residual herbicides.
The simple three-page guides tell what fieldwork must be done in fall and spring for best results and provide details such as seeding rates and nutrient applications.
In addition to step-by-step suggestions, the guides offer links to resources. Ellis and Rob Myers, MU adjunct associate professor of plant sciences, and other MU faculty and MCCC council members contributed to the guides.
McKnight Foundation funded the project. Search and download these state-specific guides at mccc.msu.edu.