Cover Crop Signups are now available!
*See below for details*
The Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) offers a Cover Crop Program that is funded through the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD). Through this program, MWCD offers reimbursement for approved fields you apply for with a cap of 200 acres per applicant across eligible counties in the jurisdictional boundary of the MWCD District.
What is it:
Where is it used:
production fields (grain, vegetable, or livestock) that are subject to soil erosion. A living plant will stabilize the soil and prevent soil movement.
fields with high nitrogen and phosphorus levels. Cover crops will absorb excess soluble nutrients and prevent movement off-site.
fields with low nutrient levels. Cover crops can enhance soil organic matter and soil structure, and they add nutrients naturally back to the soil.
combination with diverse crop rotations, no-tillage systems, and managed grazing systems.
Why install it:
What do I need to know about it:
Soil and on-farm benefits: A continuous in-field study of a central Iowa field with a 13-year corn-soybean rotation with and without a winter rye cover crop found that cover crop treatment had significantly higher soil water storage at a 0- to 30-cm depth; greater soil water content on individual days during the cash crop growing season; increased field capacity water content by 10–11 percent and plant available water by 21–22 percent; and did not reduce yields as compared to the noncover crop condition (Basche et al., 2016).
Environmental benefits: An in-field study in Iowa evaluated the effectiveness of oat and cereal rye cover crops in reducing nitrate concentrations and loads in subsurface drainage water. The rye winter cover crop significantly reduced drainage water nitrate concentrations by 48 percent over five years. The oat fall cover crop reduced nitrate concentrations by 26 percent. The research team also simulated a 45-year, corn-soybean rotation with and without a winter rye cover crop. They found an 11–29 percent reduction in erosion, up to a 34 percent decrease in nitrous oxide emissions, and a 2–18 percent reduction in soil evaporation due to the cover crop use (Basche et al., 2016).
Impacts across the Midwest: An analysis of potential cover crop adoption and relative benefits to water quality in 10 counties across the five-state region of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota evaluated the potential for a fall-planted cover crop adoption based on a cash crop rotation and tillage systems. In those 10 counties, an estimated 34–81 percent of the agricultural land could have cover crops integrated into their corn and soybean cropping systems, which could have the potential to reduce nitrate loadings to the Mississippi River by approximately 20 percent (Kladivko et al., 2014).
Another study simulated the adoption of cereal rye as a winter cover crop at 41 sites across the Midwest from 1961 to 2005. Results suggested that, on average, winter rye can reduce nitrogen loss in drainage water by 42.5 percent across the Midwest (Malone et al., 2014).
Type of Seeding
Hairy Vetch Oats
Field Peas Wheat
Annual Medic Forage Turnips
Alfalfa Oilseed Radish
Method of Seeding
Consideration should be given to herbicide programs used in row crop production and their influence on cover crop establishment. Rotational crop restrictions provide some guidance on success in establishing cover crops and are summarized in the Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois Weed Control Guide at u.osu.edu/osuweeds/files/2016/12/2017-Weed-Control-Guide-tnkpfi.pdf and in Penn State Extension’s Herbicides Persistence and Rotation to Cover Crops at extension.psu.edu/herbicides-persistence-and-rotation-to-cover-crops.
Method of Termination
Cover crop termination should be planned in accordance with the next cash crop. Ohio is in NRCS Zone 4, which recommends for non-irrigated crop termination at or within five days after planting but prior to the crop emerging. Winter-killed cover crops are those that will not survive cold conditions in a given region. Overwintering cover crops continue to grow after conditions warm and must be terminated with tillage or herbicides. Weather and growth of the cover canopy should be considered in timing termination. Crop insurance guidelines should be reviewed to determine if termination conflicts with coverage.
Termination will generally be through nonselective contact or translocated herbicides. Follow the herbicide label for rate and timing. Purdue Extension’s Successful Cover Crop Termination With Herbicides is a useful guide.
Insects and Other Pests
Roots and Debris
In a recent study determining the cost-effectiveness of various BMPs, researchers found that across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, the average annual cost of cereal rye cover crops was $61 per acre per year. Iowa had the highest costs, and Indiana had the lowest. Establishment of cover crops required 69 percent of the total cost, while management, including termination, accounted for the remaining 31 percent of the cost (Roley et al., 2016).
The NRCS provides a free Cover Crop Economics Tool to help farmers and others determine the immediate costs and benefits of cover crops. The tool uses cost inputs such as seed type and rate, planting, termination, and management-and-benefit inputs such as chemical-inputs reduction, yield increase, reduced erosion, long-term soil fertility improvement, and long-term water storage and infiltration capacity of soils. The tool puts a dollar value on difficult-to-quantify costs and benefits such as soil erosion. It also uses net-present value to allow for long-term investment scenarios.
How does it work:
Cover Crops and the Environment
Cover crops enhance biodiversity, create habitat, and attract beneficial insects.
Improvements in soil health and quality can result from increases in:
porosity (reduced compaction), water-holding capacity, and infiltration
soil organic matter
micro- and macro-invertebrates
Cover Crops and Farming
Reduce wind and water erosion on all types of soils throughout the year.
Improve soil tilth when plant roots grow into compacted areas.
Protect the soil surface from heat and erosion, and reduce sealing.
Increase soil organisms, such as earthworms, that break down residue on the field.
Increase organic matter and break disease cycles.
Retain nutrients lost through soil erosion and runoff, especially phosphorus.
Balance nutrients in the soil. Legumes can add available nitrogen to the soil. Nonlegumes can take up and recycle excess nitrogen, available phosphorus, and potassium to the following crop. This is important after manure application.
Suppress weeds through soil-shading or releasing allelochemicals.
Natural insect control, such as lady beetles or ground beetles, might be encouraged by planting cover crops.
Who do I contact in Ohio:
Why use cover crops?
Cover crops “reduce soil erosion, reduce nutrient leaching, store carbon, improve soil structure, increase water infiltration, reduce compaction, suppress weeds, enhance wildlife, fix nitrogen and serve as a forage product.”
(Rafiq Islam, Ohio State University Extension soil scientist)
- Helpful pdfs/links -
Cover crops, 4R information, prevented planting, manure/nutrient information