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Farmers using cover crops in Iowa had a big day today! PFI member Kelly Tobin along with an area cover crop farmer near Shenandoah shared their positive cover crop experiences with Governor Branstand and Secretary Bill Northey to celebrate Soil and Water Conservation Week. Branstand sounded like he was listening to some PFI observational research when he said that “cover crops keep soils warmer by providing a layer of insulation.” Check out a future blog post showing soil temperature differences between two cover crop farms in the southeast and southwest parts of the state.
Then around noon today the 2012 USDA Census of Ag data was released. Full report can be accessed here. A question about cover crop usage was added to the 2012 questionnaire. Cover crops are a renewed practice gaining interest by farmers of all production practices to incorporate into their management for improved resilience to extreme weather by improved soil health. The total cover crop acres reached 10.3 million. In the 2012 Census Iowa farmers planted 379,614 acres of cover crops. Considering that the timing of the Census of Ag survey reached Iowa farmers prior to the most recent cost share program from the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship its safe to estimate that total cover crops planted during the fall of 2013-2014 was closer to 450,000 acres in Iowa. Of the 10.3 million acres nationwide 43% of them sit in the states who participate in the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC). These states include: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio (the Canadian province of Ontario is also a member of the MCCC but for obvious reasons not included here). The MCCC has done a good job at organizing researchers, producing decision-making tools, field guides for cover crops and hosting an annual conference where the latest in cover crop information is shared. The host state for the 2015 meeting will be Iowa. Want to learn more about cover crops? Check out upcoming field days on the PFI calendar.