April 3 is the deadline for signing up for the Natural Resources Conservation Service's new cover crop initiative.
"The intent of this cover crop initiative is to encourage producers to be proactive in improving their soil quality," says Rick Bednarek, NRCS soil quality specialist, Huron, S.D.
Cover crops can extend the grazing season, provide a rest period for pasture and rangeland, cycle residue and generate a substantial amount of forage dry matter production.
Cover crops can help improve soil quality by reducing or breaking up compaction, increasing infiltration, reducing soil erosion, enhancing nutrient and residue cycling, providing nitrogen for the next crop, suppressing weed seed germination, reducing salinity, managing moisture, and increasing soil biology.
Under the cover crop initiative, a one-time payment will be $20 per acre with a minimum enrollment of 25 acres and a maximum of 160 acres. The cover crops must be planted in the summer months of 2009. All applications will be ranked with the Cover Crop Initiative Ranking. Enrollment is state-wide.
"Fall grazing of forage will be allowed; however the grazing period will be minimal to ensure at least a five-inch stubble height remains," says Bednarek. "Through the ranking process, priority will be given to applications where the cover crop mixture including a legume will be no-tilled into standing wheat stubble, and the following annual crop will be no-tilled into the undisturbed cover crop residue."
Applications or additional information about the cover crop initiative is available from your local USDA Service Center.
For more information about cover crops go to www.sd.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/CoverCrops.html.
Source: NRCS - South Dakota