Cover Crops

Check out early results from CRWP’s cover crop program funded by a Minnesota Department of Agriculture Demonstration Grant: “Interseeding Cover Crops in Standing Corn in June.”   The cover crops shown below were planted on June 6, 2016 and all photos were taken in the same field in Goodhue County on the July 27.   After the corn is harvested, this annual rye and red clover mix will grow steadily until frost, possibly staying green under the snow, keeping the soil in place throughout the winter and early spring.  Our Agriculture Program Consultants, Lee Thompson and Gene Kuntz, are available to consult with farmers about cover crops.  Contact the CRWP to learn about our current programs.

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Photo credits (slide show): Lee Thompson

What are cover crops?

Cover crops are plants that are planted between cash crop seasons to keep living cover on the landscape. In our area, cover crops are normally established in the fall and keep the soil covered for the 5 – 7 months after the fall harvest and before the next spring planting of crops.

Rye cover crop growing after corn harvest
Rye cover crop growing after corn harvest
Cover crops planted into standing corn (V5-V7 stage) in June benefit from increased sunlight by mid-September
Cover crops planted into standing corn in June benefit from increased sunlight by mid-September






What are the benefits of cover crops?

The list of benefits of cover crops is long and varied. Some of the benefits of cover crops include:

  • Helping protect water quality by reducing erosion and trapping excess nitrogen, keeping it from leaching into groundwater or running off into surface water.
  • Increasing organic matter in the soil and improving overall soil health by adding living roots to the soil during more months of the year.
  • Providing livestock producers with additional grazing or haying opportunities.
  • Providing winter food and cover for birds and other wildlife. During the growing season, cover crops can provide food for pollinators.

Farm participating in cover crops grantHow is CRWP encouraging use of cover crops?

CRWP is partnering with farmers to help them experiment with incorporating cover crops into their operations.  In 2016, CRWP is partnering with 18 farmers on 950 acres of cover crops. In 2015, CRWP partnered with 15 farmers on 710 acres of cover crops. If you or someone you know is interested in trying out cover crops, please contact us.


Map of 2015 CRWP Cover Crop Projects

Resources & Reports

MDA Sustainable Ag Grant – Cover Crop Meeting Feb 21, 2017 – a 2017 Cover Crop Project Update

2016 Cover Crop Survey Results – A nationwide survey of over 2,000 farmers by the Conservation Technology Information Center shows that cover crop use is increasing.

Is variable rate and species cover cropping possible? – This video produced by Jasper County SWCD (Indiana) presents an overview of a unique high-clearance setup for seeding cover crops.

Tips and tricks when managing 1,000 acres of cover crops – “Interview with a corn, bean, popcorn, and mint farmer (Indiana) addressing such questions as why cover crop, planting green, techniques on the cheap, rapeseed and mixes, and meaning of soil health.” – YouTube