Monica Jean, Michigan State University Extension – September 11, 2020
Friendlier interface, more accurate seeding dates and assistance with cover crop decisions are all good reasons you should try this tool.
Cover crops have been shown to improve water and soil quality, reduce erosion and capture nutrients. Choosing the right cover crop, however, can be difficult.
The Midwest Cover Crops Council, made up of representatives from 12 Midwest states and one province, including Michigan State University Extension and other agricultural stakeholders, is rolling out an improved cover crop selection tool that will help farmers make those decisions. Users select their state and county and then select the goals they have for cover crops—erosion control, nitrogen scavengers, fighting weeds, providing forage, etc. They can also provide information about the cash crops they are planting and drainage data for their fields. The tool offers the best cover crop options for the specified conditions. Clicking on the crops brings up data sheets that offer more information about each crop, seeding rates and more.
“This gives good information about the species that will fit their unique situations—their rotations, timeframes and goals,” said Anna Morrow, program manager for the Midwest Cover Crops Council. “We’ve been able to give them a visual way to take in and process that information.”
The updated tool includes more accurate seeding dates based on 30-year National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration frost date averages for each county, and changes to seeding dates and rates to align with new research. It is also now mobile-friendly and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We met with farmers, researchers, agribusiness leaders and stakeholders in all the states we represent to get the most up-to-date information available and update the tool in ways that would be most beneficial for our users,” Morrow said. “This tool is good for farmers who want to get started with cover crops and need a place to get reliable, current information to help them make the best decisions for their operations.”
The tool updates data for Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario. North Dakota and South Dakota, which were not part of the original tool, have been added.
For more information including a video tutorial, go to the Midwest Cover Crops Council Cover Crops Selector Tool.
The updates were made possible by funding from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program and Grain Farmers of Ontario.
Cover crop information and resources are available at the websites for MSU Extension Cover Crops and the Midwest Cover Crops Council. For more information on cover crops or the Midwest Cover Crops Council, contact Monica Jean.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit https://extension.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit https://extension.msu.edu/newsletters. To contact an expert in your area, visit https://extension.msu.edu/experts, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).