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Cover Crops the Benefits

Let’s Talk Cover Crops!

Cover crops are making a comeback in Illinois. Why? Because they do some amazing things!

Cover crops can protect soil from erosion by covering it in the fall and sometimes through the spring.

Nutrients that crops were unable to use can be scavenged by cover crops and released back into the soil for the next crop to use. Cereal grains, annual rye grass and radish are common cover crops for this purpose. Cover crops also provide protective vegetative cover for the soil which helps suppress winter annual weeds.

The additional organic matter cover crops provide will improve soil tilth, porosity and infiltration by providing the natural ‘glues’ that hold soil particles together.

Some cover crops— radish and annual ryegrass—may have the ability to suppress the soybean cyst nematode!

Similar to high-priced commercial nitrogen fertilizers, a legume cover crop could help “grow” some of your N needs the old fashioned way. In addition to providing nitrogen, you get benefits of erosion control and organic matter.

Compaction can be an issue. Annual ryegrass and radish can reduce compaction problems. Their root systems loosen the soil and improve infiltration of rain water.

Oats and Radishes drilled the end of August on part of a silage cut field.

 

 

 


Oats and Radishes drilled the end of August on part of a silage cut field.

Planting Tips

Cover crops can be seeded with ground equipment like drills, or broadcast equipment, or aerially applied to get the cover crop started early enough to achieve desired results.

Cover crops are ideal for planting after early-harvested crops like wheat, sweet corn, seed corn, and silage corn. To find out the proper time of year to inter-seed into mature corn and soybeans for ample growth, contact your local NRCS or SWCD office.

 

Radishes planted in this corn field protect the soil through the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

Radishes planted in this corn field protect the soil through the winter.

 


Cover Crop Benefits
• Reduce Soil Erosion
• Build Soil Tilth; Improve Soil Health
• Increase Soil Porosity & Infiltration
• Reduce Pests
• Improve Soil Microbiology
• Produce/ Scavenge Crop Nutrients
• Reduce Soil Compaction
• Increase Nutrient Recycling
• Help Winter Annual Weed Control
• Improve Yield Potential Over Time
• Protect Water Quality


Nutrient Scavengers?

Annual Ryegrass
Radish
Cereal Rye
Oats

Nitrogen Producers?

Crimson Clover
Hairy Vetch
Austrian Winter Pea

Nitrogen Producers & Scavengers?

Crimson Clover/Oats
Hairy Vetch/Annual Rye Grass Crimson Clover/Radish
Austrian Winter Pea/Radish


Cover Crop
Funding Opportunities

Environmental Quality Incentives Program
2014 Payment Rates

Cover Crop Scenarios Available in Illinois Traditional Payment Rates per Acre
Chemical or Mechanical Kill Species $58.81
Winterkill Species $42.58
Mix-2 Species or More $69.15
Mix-3 Species or More $74.06
Organic Cover Crop $122.80

 

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

Cover Crop Enhancements Available through CSP for 2014:

Code Enhancement Name
ENR12 Use of legume cover crops as a nitrogen source
PLT20 Use of High residue cover crop or mixtures of high residue cover crops for weed suppression and soil health
SQL04 Use of cover crop mixes
SQL05 Use of deep rooted crops to breakup soil compaction
SQL11 Use of cover cropping in orchards, vineyards, and other woody perennial horticultural crops
SQL12 Use of intensive cover cropping in annual crops
WQL10 Plant a cover crop that will scavenge residual nitrogen
WQL17 Use of non-chemical methods to kill cover crops

Roots from rye grass can reach as deep as 40 inches.

 

 

 

 

Roots from rye grass can reach as deep as 40 inches.

 

For more information or to apply for EQIP/CSP funding, contact your local NRCS Office or go to: www.il.nrcs.usda.gov

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A Printed Version of this fact sheet is available in Adobe Acrobat

Cover Crop the Benefits.pdf (PDF, 2,112 kb)