Cover Crops Trap Residual N Following Drought

This is the perfect year to plant cover crops in Illinois, according to soils and agronomy experts with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Besides the obvious negative impact on crop yields, the drought will leave residual nitrate in the soil at harvest time, potentially allowing nitrate to leach out the bottom of the root zone. If more typical precipitation returns in November through April, the amounts of nitrate lost could be much larger this year than usual, leading to nutrient loading to local waters and eventually to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.

That’s how cover crops can help. Cover crops will scavenge residual N and recycle it through their plant biomass, says Illinois NRCS State Agronomist Brett Roberts. He says as cover crops decompose next year, some of the N taken up by the cover crops will be released for use by the next cash crop, and some will go towards building soil organic matter.

“Fall-planted cover crops would be a good investment this year, to benefit both their own farms and regional water quality,” says Roberts. The best N-scavenging cover crops include oats, cereal rye, or annual ryegrass mixed with oilseed radish. If a farmer is interested in fall grazing, then turnips or other brassicas could be mixed with the oats and cereal rye.

Roberts says cover crops could help farmers recoup part of their fertilizer N investment from last season, and will improve soil organic matter and soil biological activity. “Cover crops will also be very useful after soybeans for adding organic matter and trapping N released by decomposing soybean residues,” he says.

One of NRCS’ key messages to farmers is to add living roots to the soil during more months of the year to increase organic matter and improve soil health. Along with eliminating tillage activities, NRCS State Conservationist Ivan Dozier confirms that legume cover crops as natural fertilizers and grasses as scavengers of nutrients often lost after harvest or during winter.

“Diversity above ground improves diversity below ground, which helps create healthy productive soils,” says Dozier. “Cover crops should be an integral part of a cropping system. They help improve soil health by developing an ecosystem that sustains and nourishes plants, soil microbes and beneficial insects.” Besides helping to restore soil health, cover crops also protect soil against erosive heavy rains and strong winds. They can provide livestock producers with additional grazing or haying opportunities, and winter food and cover for birds and other wildlife. For landowners with enough soil moisture for the cover crop, the choice could be a true benefit.

Producers are encouraged to check with their crop insurance providers to be sure planting cover crops does not adversely affect crop insurance coverage. Additionally, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) considers grazing of certain varieties of cover crops as harvesting.

Landowners interested in planting cover crops should visit the local NRCS office for more information on the best solution for your operation. Federal, state or local financial assistance may be available.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

FertilizerPhosphorus: Is Band Or Broadcast Application The Better Method?
February 3, 2016
Is band or broadcast application the better method when it comes to phosphorus? The answer to this question depends mostly Read More
Potash storage at Growmark
FertilizerThe Phosphate And Potash Outlook For 2016
February 2, 2016
Like other commodities, prices of the leading plant nutrient products dropped sharply in 2015. At this writing, the price of Read More
Young Corn Plants
FertilizerNutrient Considerations For Low Corn Prices
February 2, 2016
Corn prices are low and many producers are asking tough questions about their nutrient management programs. Here are some suggestions Read More
Granular urea from CF Industries urea plant in Donaldsonville, LA
FertilizerWhat’s In Store For Nitrogen In 2016
February 2, 2016
Supply is the overriding theme for the North American 2016 nitrogen outlook. In the last 12 months, global factors have Read More
Top 100 Articles
Elburn Cooperative
CropLife 100Elburn Cooperative Members Vote To Join CHS
December 28, 2015
With 81% of eligible producers voting, 94% cast an affirmative ballot for Elburn Cooperative, a diversified agricultural retailer based out Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Farmers Cooperative-West Central Merger Approved
December 21, 2015
The members of Farmers Cooperative Co. (FC), Ames, IA, and West Central Cooperative, Ralston, IA, have both approved the merger Read More
Wheat Growers Innovation Center, Bath, SD
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Opens Innovation Center
December 21, 2015
Wheat Growers’ commitment in providing its farmer-owners with the latest in technological advancements now has a one-of-a-kind focal point, as Read More
CropLife 100ARA Selects The Andersons As 2015 Retailer Of The Year
December 9, 2015
The Agricultural Retailers Association today named Maumee, OH-based The Andersons as its Retailer of the Year for 2015. The award Read More
CPS Washington Court House John Deere Sprayer
CropLife 100Application Equipment Report: It Is Easy Being Green For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 5, 2015
On The Muppets television show, Kermit the Frog is famous for singing a song about the troubles he encounters in Read More
Fertilizer Bin
CropLife 100Fertilizer Sales: Another Down Year For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 4, 2015
In pure number terms, the fertilizer category still dominates all crop inputs/services among CropLife 100 ag retailers. In 2015, for Read More
Latest News
EquipmentCase Unveils 2000 Series Early Riser Planter At NFMS
February 10, 2016
Case IH revealed the all-new 2000 Series Early Riser planter to media and attendees at the opening of the National Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta: Keep Ag In Mind During Election Season
February 10, 2016
As presidential candidates stake out their 2016 election platforms and key priorities, growers and their business partners should seek opportunities Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Submits New Bio-Fungicide For E…
February 9, 2016
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI) today announced that it has submitted a new biological fungicide (MBI-110) to EPA. The broad spectrum Read More
Crop InputsWeed Expert: Adding A Second Herbicide Not Always Easy
February 9, 2016
In my last post, I reviewed some recent research that suggests one of the best ways to delay the evolution Read More
Crop InputsGenetic Literacy Project: Farmers Need More Herbicide C…
February 9, 2016
There are two things that I think just about every weed scientist can agree on, writes Andrew Kniss for The Read More
HerbicidesWeed Expert Warns North Dakota Growers Of Coming Herbic…
February 9, 2016
Ford Baldwin painted a bleak picture of weed control at a recent workshop here exploring the future of ag production, Read More
HerbicidesWSSA Announces New, Updated Free Web Resources
February 9, 2016
Today the Weed Science Society of American (WSSA) announced that new and updated educational materials for both weed scientists and Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesFour Arysta Fungicide Formulations Given FIFRA Approval…
February 8, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the issuance of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(ee) Recommendations for Read More
FungicidesAgri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus Receives EPA Registrat…
February 8, 2016
Vivid Life Sciences has announced the EPA registration of Agri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus, a highly concentrated active ingredient phosphite fungicide, Read More
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More
Crop InputsBayer To Contest EPA Flubendiamide Decision
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, announced today it has refused a request by EPA to voluntarily cancel the uses Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechNot So Fast: ChemChina Syngenta Takeover Could Draw Nat…
February 5, 2016
State-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina), which plans to buy Swiss seeds and pesticide maker Syngenta, will promptly start preparations Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechExpansion Of Syngenta’s North America Seedcare In…
February 4, 2016
As demand for seed treatment knowledge and products grows among farmers, retailers and others in the seed industry, Syngenta is Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Strengthens Sales Team
February 4, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced three new personnel additions: Jake Cook and Peter White are Territory Sales Managers for Read More
Davor Pisk Syngenta COO
Crop InputsSyngenta COO: Why ChemChina Offer Beat Monsanto’s
February 4, 2016
Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk says he is confident the proposed acquisition by ChemChina will ultimately help preserve choice Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsKoch Biological Solutions Invests In Pathway Biologic
February 4, 2016
An affiliate of Koch Biological Solutions, LLC has acquired a minority equity position in, and entered into collaboration with, Pathway Read More