Which cover crop strategies are best for your farm?

August 22, 2023
No matter what your agronomic or soil health goals may be, there’s likely a cover crop approach that’s right for the job. Christian Rohloff, an agronomist with CHS, talks about the benefits of adding cereal rye, radishes and other cover crops to your rotation.

The agronomic benefits of planting cover crops are numerous, but determining which cover crop program to adopt can be a challenge. Christian Rohloff, an agronomist with CHS, describes how growers can determine the right cover crop to fit their needs.

Understand the agronomic benefits

“We get a handful of agronomic benefits from cover crops,” Rohloff says. “Some of the more common benefits are reduced soil compaction or breaking up soil pans.”

Increased nutrient storage and production, wind and water erosion control, weed suppression and disease control, especially for corn, soybeans and wheat are other pluses. Aside from agronomic benefits, cover crops can also provide cost-effective forage for livestock.

One key benefit of cover crop adoption for many growers is improved soil health, says Rohloff. By planting certain cover crops, growers can increase soil organic matter in soil due to additional root and plant growth throughout the growing season.

Choose the right cover crops

Having specific goals helps guide which cover crop to plant, says Rohloff.

“For example, if a farmer is looking to break up soil compaction, radishes and turnips might be the best option to promote nitrogen production, something in the legume family like a pea or hairy vetch might be the best option,” Rohloff explains. “Identifying those goals and then fitting them into the ideal crop rotation can help farmers pick the right crop for their needs.”

Look for local advice

For farmers looking for advice on how to integrate cover crops into their cropping plans, Rohloff suggests finding someone close to home who can help.

“Identifying someone in your local area who has experience with cover crops will give you the best information,” he advises. “Someone who has knowledge of cover crops in your growing climate is going to be able to help you identify your goals and find the right fit for your operation.”