The extremely wet and cool spring in Michigan is causing planting delays and in some cases fields may never dry out to allow planting. The window for planting corn and soybeans is narrowing and may soon qualify for prevented planting. If this is the case, producers are advised to contact their crop insurance agent for eligibility of payments under prevented planting provisions of their crop insurance policy. Farmers should also contact the Farm Service Agency in order to maintain eligibility for Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP).
Farmers with prevented planting have several options for these acres. These acres should be protected from water and wind erosion and must be maintained to control the growth of weeds. One option farmers should consider is establishing a cover crop. Cover crops provide for protection of water and wind erosion and can suppress weed populations. Other benefits of planting a cover crop include helping build soil and sequestering nutrients.
Selecting a cover crop should be based on cost, ease of management, time of planting, soil characteristics and crop rotation. Some options would include oats, cereal rye, sorghum-sudangrass, sudangrass, oilseed radish, winter peas, sweet clover or crimson clover. Each of these cover crop species can provide different attributes. Select the one that will meet your goals for planting the cover crop.
Farmers may want to consider a cocktail mix of cover crops. A mixture will ensure that something will grow over the variable soil types in Michigan fields. Having all summer and fall for growth will allow deep rooting and more nitrogen fixation. Mixtures that include oilseed radish, legume and a grass will provide the best overall soil improvement including compaction correction. Caution is needed when planting seeds of different sizes as different equipment may be required to assure proper seed placement.
Source: Paul Gross, Michigan State University Extension