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Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide update: A go-to in-field resource for Minnesota farmers

Minnesota cover crops field guide 3rd edition front cover

By: Anna Cates, Extension soil health specialist

The Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide is a go-to in-field resource for farmers, advisors, and educators who work with cover crops. It fits in your pocket, has great pictures of different types of cover crops so you can identify the plants in your 12-way mix, and it includes critical information on seeding rates, methods, and depths. (For planting timing recommendations, you can always use the MCCC online selector tool.)

The updated guide includes information on planting green, the practice of planting a cash crop into living cover crops and terminating shortly thereafter. The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council is funding research on planting soybeans into living rye in Minnesota, a combination that has worked well in Iowa without reducing soybean yield. Farmers say it’s actually easier to run a planter through upright, flexible, living plants than dead rye, which can form a wet mat that tangles around planter units. The research collaboration between U of M Extension, the Minnesota Wheat Growers, and several Soil and Water Conservation Districts will evaluate the practice on six farms across northwest and west-central Minnesota.

cover crops in a field

White clover, forage brassicas, balansa clover, and several cover crops that are commonly used in a mix were also added to the new edition of the guide. Although cereal rye is the most reliable for late-season establishment in Minnesota’s cold climate, growers are looking for more cover crop options after wheat and canning crops, and to provide good forage options. (See the Minnesota Office of Soil Health’s resources page.) Crop farmers who are interested in producing cover crops for forage can also use the Minnesota Cropland Grazing Exchange to match with livestock producers looking for forage, or vice versa. Bringing animals in to graze cover crops can spread nutrients via manure, and farmers who are able to convert cover crops to feed are able to realize a profit on their cover crops.

Order updated MCCC Cover Crops Field Guides from Purdue University Extension. MCCC is a collaboration of land-grant universities from across the north-central region. Minnesota has produced three MCCC cover crop recipes for common Minnesota crop rotations. Next year’s MCCC Annual Meeting will be held alongside the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Jan 24-25, 2023. Mark your calendars to attend!


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