Cover crops are plants such as small grains, legumes, brassicas and others that are planted between cash crop seasons to keep a living cover on the landscape. Numerous studies have shown these plants can help protect soil and water quality, reduce chemical input costs, improve farm resiliency, boost yields, increase forage availability and improve wildlife habitat. In Iowa, the number of cover crop acres has increased dramatically over the past several years — from fewer than 10,000 acres in 2009 to about 600,000 acres in 2016. Practical Farmers of Iowa has played a central role in bringing about this transformative change to the landscape.
Adding a Cover Crop to a Corn-Soybean System
PFI field crop specialist Sarah Carlson explains how to add a cover crop to your corn and soybean rotation in this 25-minute video.
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With cover crops promising such tangible benefits for farmers and the environment, Practical Farmers is working to increase cover crop use in Iowa and the Midwest. Iowa Learning Farms has been a key partner in these efforts, as well as the Natural Resources Conversation Service, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Risk Management Agency. In addition several private companies including seed-houses, aerial applicators and cooperatives have also worked with Practical Farmers to decrease barriers for farmers wanting to add cover crops.