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News Release

Cover Crops Solution After Crop Failure Due to Weather

Colette Kessler, State Public Affairs Officer
(605) (605) 220-1765


Cover Crops Solution After Crop Failure Due to Weather


NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE, Huron, SD, July 10, 2018 – Excessive moisture, as well as hail and damaging winds, are challenging fields in parts of South Dakota. While it is likely too late to replant the original cash crop, cover crops may be an option. Conservation Agronomist Eric Barsness with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) says “Basically we do not want those fields left idle with nothing growing out there. We need to keep the biology working.” He says farmers need to keep the whole system going. “Farmers should try to keep a living root in the soil as that will help do that,” he continues. “It might free up some nutrients, maybe sequester some nutrients if we have some applied to our cash crops.”

Farmers with damaged fields should first check with crop insurance to learn the rules for replanting. Also, Barsness advises to consider the herbicide program already in place. Unfortunately, not a lot of information on cover crops and herbicides is available. “But typically, if you stay within the same crop type, as your cash crop it is going to be a lot more compatible,” he states. “So, if you are in a corn field you can spike in or interseed just some grazing corn. You could spike in some sorghum Sudan grass, some millet. We are looking at grass type warm season species there.”

While many of the cover crops may be grazed or harvested for feed, Barsness encourages farmers to consider the soil health benefits of cover crops. He says, “Weed control is always going to be an issue. Whenever that canopy gets opened up, weed control is one of our main concerns.” Barsness says cover crops help keep weeds down, helps the soil biology, and helps reduce any erosion potential for future rain events later in the season. “It’s going to be an overall good practice to do,” he said.

The NRCS can offer technical guidance on cover crop seed selection, seeding rate and more. Visit any USDA Service Center for more information.