When no-till arrived on the scene in a big way some three decades ago, farmers and those that work with farmers soon learned the key to making no-till work was wanting it to work, and planning for it in advance. It's not a system where you just decide one day to no-till – if you do, you're tempting fate and running up the odds of failure right off the bat.
Paul Marcellino, Howard County ag educator, believes cover crops are much the same way. It's another step beyond no-till. Especially in areas like north-central Indiana, where cover crops haven't been used much in the past, making cover crops work requires a lot of thought and planning.
"You really need to decide you're going to do it and begin planning a year in advance," the educator says. "There are many issues to think through, including what herbicides you're using in crop rotations. You need to be sure you can plant the cover crops you want after the crop without having herbicide carryover interfere with germinating the cover crop.
"You also need to think about which cover crops you want to plant. That can relate to what you're trying to accomplish with cover crops. You also have to be committed to no-tilling into the cover crop.
"There are a lot of things to check out before you just by the seed and seed it on your fields. You need a plan."
Marcellino and other ag educators in a five-county area are helping local farmers plant demonstration plots, and using them to teach other farmers about cover crops. It's a learning process and takes time.
If you skip the process and don't plan ahead, there's a good chance you will be dissatisfied, Marcellino concludes.