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Cover crops

Cover crops are grown outside of the cash crop growing season, usually seeded in the fall and killed before spring planting.

Keeping living roots in the ground year-round can improve water management, soil protection and nutrient scavenging, but they need to be given the same attention as a cash crop to ensure success.

Try cover crops on a small scale at first, and look into cost-share from state and local governments. 

Some of the best opportunities are with early-harvested cash crops like corn silage, small grains, and canning crops like beans and peas, as you’ll get more vigorous fall growth if you plant in late summer and early fall.

In fields where wheat was just harvested, simply allowing the wheat to reseed itself without tilling the land would work as a cover crop. But cover crops can work with standard corn-soybean rotations as well.

Learn more about reducing tillage and incorporating cover crops in the Soil Health Series:

Minnesota cover crop recipes

For a quick way to get started, Minnesota cover crop recipes provide step-by-step guidance to some of the lowest-risk starting points for cover crops. These recipes don’t cover all possibilities, but they can help beginners get most pieces in place to incorporate cover crops into a farm operation.


Update on latest research

In Cover crop virtual field day: Setting up for success, researchers and educators highlighted research projects that can help farmers and ag professionals successfully incorporate cover crops into Minnesota cropping systems.

Topics & speakers include:

  • Cover crops as a tool in waterhemp management?
    Ethan Ley, graduate assistant and Gregg Johnson, Associate Professor, Biomass Cropping Systems, Southern Research and Outreach Center, Waseca
  • Balancing the pros and cons of planting green in Minnesota
    Lizabeth Stahl, Extension Educator – Crops, Worthington Regional Extension Office, Worthington
  • Strategies for interseeding cover crops into corn
    Axel Garcia y Garcia, Associate Professor, Cropping Systems, Southwest Research and Outreach Center, Lamberton
  • Cover crop roundtable
    Anna Cates, Extension Soil Health Specialist, Department of Soil Health, Water, and Climate, St. Paul, in addition to previous speakers.

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