Are cover crops a fad or here to stay? From the interest received at the cover crop area at the Farm Progress Show, you would likely vote "here to stay."
Early on this year, Farm Progress recognized that cover crops were a hot topic, and made a commitment to provide an educational opportunity on cover crops for farmers who attended the show. Miles Plumer headed up the crew that discussed cover crops for three days. He also helped plant and nurture a display of about 20 cover crops or cover crop mixes so that people could see what they were talking about. They used irrigation to make sure the cover crops had a reasonable chance to emerge and grow.
"There was hardly no time when one of the specialists wasn't busy talking to someone, especially Tuesday and Wednesday," says Lisa Holscher, coordinator of the Hub part of the Cover Crops System Initiative special project in Indiana. Plumer is a retired University of Illinois agronomist, a consultant and a farmer. Hans Kok of CCSI and others helped explain cover crop options during the three days of the show.
One group of interested people even braved 99 degree temperatures on Wednesday afternoon to follow Kok through the various plots. Each plot contained a different mix of cover crops, each chosen for a reason. Some are better at rooting, some better at tying up N, still others better at producing N in the spring. The plots were planted out of season after wheat harvest on a corner of the show grounds especially for use during the show.
Interest has been high in cover crops in Indiana for the past two seasons, but not so much in Illinois. The specialists are hoping that once people go see them and ask questions about them, it may jump start efforts toward more cover crops in Illinois as well.