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Prevented plant: Cover crop and forage options

When the late-planting window starts closing, consider planting cover crops – including those for forage use – on prevented plant acres.

There are several options if you can’t plant your insured crop by the final planting date or within the late planting period.

Planting a cover crop for hay or grazing

If you’re a livestock producer and short on forage inventory, you can plant a cover crop for hay or grazing.  

Restrictions and limitations

However, your prevented planting payment may be significantly reduced if you harvest forage before Nov. 1. Check with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and your crop insurance agent for details. Then, pencil out the economics for your own enterprise to decide whether this is a viable option for you.

There also may be restrictions on feeding a cover crop depending on which herbicides have been used in the past. For example, crops treated with glyphosate cannot be fed or harvested for eight weeks, while herbicides containing acetochlor (Harness, Surpass, etc.) have an 18-month restriction for grazing or harvesting certain cover crops for feed.

Read all labels of herbicides used in the current growing season as well as the previous season for harvest and feeding restrictions and crop rotation guidelines.

Legality of using a cover crop as forage

Forage options

While alfalfa and corn silage are the preferred choices for forage quality and yield, summer annuals may help fill inventory gaps when these primary forages are in short supply and herbicide use restrictions aren’t a concern.

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Seeding alfalfa after Aug. 1

If you’re a livestock producer and have lost alfalfa to winter injury, you may wish to replace some of those acres by establishing alfalfa on prevented plant land after Aug. 1 without penalty.

In general, seeding with a companion crop isn’t recommended due to potential competition for moisture. If the ground will be fallow until the late-summer seeding, you may need to chemically burn down the natural cover (i.e., weeds).

Fall harvest of a late-summer seeding isn’t recommended due to the high risk of winter injury. More alfalfa establishment guidance:

Highly erodible land (HEL)

On slopes of more than 3 percent, crop residue cover must meet the conservation compliance plan requirements for those acres.

For complete information, check with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Phyllis Bongard, Extension communications specialist

Reviewed in 2018

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