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News Release

NRCS Recommends Herbicide Over Tillage for Cover Crops Termination

Barb Stewart

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is asking farmers to rethink the decision to use tillage as a termination method for their cover crops, instead of herbicide, according to Barb Stewart, state agronomist with NRCS in Des Moines.

“These farmers are concerned the cool, soggy spring may reduce the plant’s ability absorb the chemicals,” said Stewart.

However, tilling the soil under these conditions will cause severe compaction and damage to soil structure—undoing many of the benefits created by the cover crops, she said.

“By the time field conditions improve enough for a tillage pass, the conditions will also be good for herbicide termination of cover crops,” said Stewart.

NRCS conservationists recommend waiting it out until conditions are better for herbicide application and avoiding tillage to terminate cover crops. “This will protect soil health and productivity,” said Stewart.

Bob Hartzler, weed specialist with ISU Extension, said when using Roundup to terminate rye it’s best to apply a few weeks before planting corn. “With soybeans it’s less critical,” he said.

Due to the cool, wet spring the Regional RMA is allowing approved insurance providers, at their sole discretion, to extend the grazing period for cover crops to May 22. Producers must check with their local insurance provider. Cover crops still need to be terminated at planting time and planting dates have not changed.