Cover crops have many benefits including protecting soil surfaces from wind and water erosion, weed suppression, and improving soil health. This year many Missouri acres intended to be planted to corn and soybean were either flooded or too wet to be planted in a timely manner. Leaving these fields fallow without beneficial plants can lead to increased soil erosion, heavy weed growth that adds to the weed seed-bank, and detrimental effects on the soil microbiome. These effects may influence the field well after this season.
Planting a cover crop after flood waters recede and or as deadlines are met for prevented planting is an appropriate consideration. Please read the latest Risk Management Agency (RMA) Fact Sheet addressing prevented planting insurance provisions. It is critical that producers contemplating planting any species of cover crop obtain permission from their crop insurance agent and follow RMA guidelines. Do not put prevented planting insurance benefits at risk by performing an unapproved action. In a year like 2019, with highly unusual weather affecting crop management, it is important to check with regulating agencies often because revised provisions are possible.
Cover crop management and crop choice for summer differ from choices for fall planted cover crops. The heat in summer dictates that warm season crops be used. Cool season crops that are typically used for cover crops planted in fall will not grow successfully during hot and humid months. A warm season crop not usually considered for cover crop use is soybean. Soybean is an excellent choice. It is a warm season crop that grows quickly. Seed and planting equipment are available. And, soybean is a legume and fixes nitrogen. Again, please check with your insurance agent and RMA for appropriate cover crop selection.
Farmers are familiar with soybean management, but management as a cover crop may differ, somewhat. For best results as a cover crop consider these soybean management practices.
REVISED: July 16, 2019