Farm Progress

Test-drive cover crops on your farm

Farmers are needed for a Missouri strip-trial program of cover crops.

February 27, 2017

3 Min Read
BENEFITS OF COVER: Finding the benefits of cover crops for Missouri farmers takes research. Farmers can be a part of that research and receive a firsthand look at how cover crops perform in their operation by taking part in the Missouri Strip Trial Program, coordinated by the University of Missouri Extension.

Are you thinking of incorporating cover crops on your farm? Perhaps you are wondering how cover crops would work into your corn and soybean system? The University of Missouri Extension may have an opportunity for farmers to see just what cover crops work best, and how they contribute to the farming operation, through its Missouri Strip Trial Program.

Now in its second year, the MU Missouri Strip Trial Program will once again look at cover crops. However, the program needs more participants.

The grower-based program helps farmers and crop advisers compare on-farm management decisions and practices in a low-cost, low-risk setting, according to Greg Luce, MU Extension corn specialist and research director for the Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. Luce and other researchers use on-farm and field-scale research to provide growers with farm-specific data to guide decisions, evaluate management practices and improve their bottom line.

Ten years ago, not many farmers were even talking about cover crops. Luce says that now the use of cover crops is more mainstream, and research is needed to know how best to use them.

Strip trial strategies
Strip trials are multiple long strips laid out side by side in a field. Researchers and growers compare different management practices on each strip. They use in-season aerial imagery and GPS-referenced yield monitor data to compare different cover crop treatments.

Farmers use their own equipment or that of their commercial applicator. They work with their choice of an MU Extension specialist or other crop consultant. The specialist or consultant guides them through the process. At the end of the season, growers receive personalized, confidential evaluations of their trial. They also have access to aggregated results from trials in their area and statewide.

Last year, strip trials were conducted at 40 locations. This year, cover crop trials will focus on yield impact to corn and soybean, optimum termination dates, iLevo soybean treatment, fine-tuning phosphorus requirements, and optimum nitrogen timing for corn.

Field findings
Luce gave a report of last year’s strip trials at a meeting of certified crop advisers in St. Joseph. He says consistent yield gains have been “elusive.”

Cover crops protect soil from erosion and provide weed control in crops. Soybeans generally have responded more positively than corn in early trials, but cover crops can work well with both crops. Cover crops also appear to be a good way to manage marestail and winter annual weeds, he says. Early termination of cover crops proved to be effective.

Many questions remain to be answered. When should growers terminate cover crops for best results? Is erosion control or long-term soil health the biggest benefit of cover crops? Are cover crops giving up nitrogen or tying it up in the soil? These are some of the questions researchers working with MU Extension’s Strip Trial Program hope to answer, Luce says.

He encourages farmers to become a part of the strip trial program this year. Go to for more information or contact Luce at [email protected] or 573-473-7079.

Source: University of Missouri Extension

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