Your goals, location, cropping practices, equipment and labor resources all affect your cover-crop choices, says Bowers, an annual ryegrass seed grower and co-owner of K B Seed Solutions.

Think about what you want to accomplish with your cover crop, says Sarah Carlson, Midwest cover crop research coordinator for Practical Farmers of Iowa. Do you need forage? Do you want to reduce erosion, break up compaction, scavenge soil N, build organic matter?

Roger Robinson and his father have grown cover crops for decades for forage and soil improvement on their continuous no-till grain and cattle operation near Orleans, Ind. After corn silage harvest, Robinson drills or broadcasts a mix of oats and Austrian winter peas, or oats and turnips. “These produce phenomenal biomass,” he says. After corn for grain or soybeans, he seeds annual ryegrass with turnips or oilseed radishes. If corn is the next crop, he’ll add some crimson clover, too.

The Midwest Cover Crops Council’s interactive decision tool suggests cover crops to meet specific goals and gives seeding date ranges by state and county: http://www.mccc.msu.edu/selectorINTRO.html.

Pay attention to seed quality, too, Robinson adds. “The demand for good cover-crop seed now exceeds the supply.” Work with an established cover-crop seed company that has a track record in your area.

choose your cover crop seed options

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