Practical Farmers provides farmers and agency personnel with information, anecdotes and research about adding cover crops to current conventional, organic or other farming systems.
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.
Cover Crop Cost-Share
Practical Farmers is in its seventh year offering cost-share and technical assistance for those who are seeding fall cover crops.
You can receive $10 per acre on up to 200 acres or 10% of your farmed acres (whichever is larger) and $5 per acre on everything above that. There are no requirements on the species or seeding method used.
On this page:
- PFI Cover Crop Resources
- Annual Conference Sessions
- Other Resources
- Midwest Grazing Exchange
Cover Crop Resources
Annual Conference sessions
|Equipment for Different Situations||Jaron Wilson, Dean Schultes & Eric Madsen|
|Panel: Outfitting Equipment for Planting Into Cover Crops||Craig Fleishman,|
|Panel: Outfitting Equipment for Planting Into Cover Crops||Mike Van Zee|
|Panel: Outfitting Equipment for Planting Into Cover Crops||Michael Vittetoe|
|Panel: Innovative Ways to Establish Cover Crops||David Pieper, Erich Wickman & Kellie Blair|
|On-Farm Cover Crops Research in Practice|| Jon Bakehouse & Sam Bennett|
|Reducing Yield Variability Through Soil Health||Wayne Fredericks & Jerry Hatfield|
|Planting Corn in 60-Inch Row-Widths for Interseeding Cover Crops|| Stefan Gailans & Nathan Anderson|
|Interseeding Alfalfa or Red Clover Into Corn as Dual-Purpose Cover and Forage Crops||John Grabber|
|Cover Crop Collaboration: Adding the Neighbor's Livestock|| Pete Marshall & Mark Peterson|
|Synergizing Cover Crops and Herbicide Use||Meaghan Anderson|
|Growing Crops 365 Days a Year||Loran Steinlage||PDF1|
|Growing Crops 365 Days a Year||Loran Steinlage||PDF2|
|Fall Cover Crops Seeding Methods||Adam Nechanicky|
|Starting a Cover Crop Seed Business||Dean Sponheim|
|Starting a Cover Crop Seed Business||Mac Ehrhardt|
|Starting a Cover Crop Seed Business||Dean Sponheim & Mac Ehrhardt||Handout|
|Cover Crops for Weed Control in Field Crops||Anita Dille||see YouTube video|
|What's the Soil Missing? Integrated|
Crop Rotation and Livestock
|Managing Weed Control in an Organic Crop Rotation||Megan Wallendal|
|Panel: Planting Corn Following a Cover Crop||Brent Larson|
|Panel: Planting Corn and Soybeans Following a Cover Crop||Trent Sanderson|
|Grazing Cover Crops for Profit||Meghan Filbert|
|Using Science and On-Farm Research to Investigate Cover Crops in Iowa||Dr. Stefan Gailans|
|Developing Relationships to Implement Conservation on Rented Cropland||Mike Helland and Lee Tesdell|
|An Economic Evaluation of Cover Crops in Midwestern Agriculture||Alejandro Plastina|
|Using the SmartMix Calculator to Develop Good Cover Crop Mixes||Keith Berns|
|Cover Crops and Crop Rotations in Organic Systems Without Livestock||Mark Doudlah||Video|
|Doudlah Farms Organics: Why and How we Transitioned to Organic||Mark Doudlah|
|Learning From On-Farm Research: Field Crops||Tim Sieren|
|Learning From On-Farm Research: Field Crops||Jack Boyer|
|Learning From On-Farm Research: Field Crops||Stefan Gailans|
|Cover Crops 201||Chris Teachout & Loran Steinlage|
|Grazing Cover Crops||Mark Schleisman|
|Cover Crops and Conservation on Rented Ground||Chris Teachout & Chris Henning|
|A Decade of Cover Crop Research||Joel Gruver|
|Intro to Cover Crops for Vegetables||Mark Quee|
|Growing Your Own Cover Crop Seed||Chris Gaesser & Dick Sloan|
|Reducing Herbicide with Cover Crops||Doug Adams & Wade Dooley|
|Roller-Crimping Cover Crops||Levi Lyle and Billy Sammons|
|Inter-Seeding Cover Crops to Corn||Bryce Irlbeck|
|Rolling Cover Crops with Modified Equipment||Dave Schmidt|
|Rolling Cover Crops with Modified Equipment||Francis Thicke|
|Rolling Cover Crops with Modified Equipment||Doug Alert|
|Healthy Plants Grow in Healthy Soils||Jill Clapperton|
|Healthy Plants Grow in Healthy Soils Q & A||Jill Clapperton|
|Fear of Change in Cover Crop Adoption||Blake Vince|
|Global Overview of Farmland Conservation||Blake Vince|
|Cover Crops or Forage Crops?||Joe Sellers|
|Cover Crops, Weeds and Herbicides||Bob Hartzler|
|Nutrient Reduction Strategies||Tim Smith|
|Cover Crops 101||Rob Stout|
|Cover Crops 101||Tom Kaspar|
|Cover Crops: 101 and Advanced||Paul Ackley|
|Cover Crops: 101 and Advanced||Dave Robison|
|Benefits of Cover Crops||Tom Kaspar|
|Benefits of Cover Crops||Dave Robison|
Economic Value of Cover Crops (ILF)
A recent study, conducted by Iowa Learning Farms (ILF), Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and Practical Farmers of Iowa, was to find the economic value of reduced soil erosion and reduced nutrient loss from cover crop use.
Cover Crop Termination Guidelines (NRCS)
To ensure that USDA policies are coordinated and up to date with evolving cover crop practices, the administrators of the Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS), Risk Management Agency (RMA) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) organized an interagency workgroup to develop consistent, simple and
flexible policy across the three agencies.
Prevented Planting Fact Sheet (NRCS)
Discover the facts and benefits about using cover crops to improve soil in prevented planting fields, including building topsoil and nitrogen.
Managing Cover Crops Profitably (SARE)
For more information on how and why cover crops work, check out the book Managing Cover Crops Profitably by the Sustainable Agriculture Network, available as a free download.
Midwest Cover Crops Council (WIU)
For information about cover crops throughout the Midwest, visit the Midwest Cover Crops Council Website. Their 136-page guide will help you effectively select, grow, and use cover crops in your farming systems. You can purchase a copy for just $5.
Cover Crop Alternatives (WIU)
Interested in adding cover crops to your farm? Joel Gruver’s Cover Crop Alternatives presentation shows how you can more easily add cover crops to your farming system.
Cover Cropping for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects (SARE)
This 16-page bulletin will help you use cover crops to encourage populations of pollinators and beneficial insects on your farm while you address your other resource concerns.
Midwest Grazing Exchange
Expanding integrated crop-livestock systems can offer a range of benefits for farmers, the environment and rural communities. But accessing land to graze, or finding livestock farmers to partner with, can be a barrier.
The Midwest Grazing Exchange is a free matchmaking service that aims to connect graziers seeking land to graze with landowners in six Midwestern states. It was created to help farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin find livestock or land to graze.
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.