Cover crops for prevented plant acres

Farm Forum

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The snowy, rainy spring of 2013 has left many farmers making the decision to put some, or all, of their acres into the prevented plant insurance option. Although cover crops are not a requirement of the prevented plant option, they are still a good idea to help with erosion control and weed management.

It’s important for farmers to talk with their insurance agents and their local Farm Service Agency. Understand and follow the prevented plant rules to ensure payment. Remember, there may be differences depending on your state or even your county.

Planting date of the cover crop will be important for selection. A June or early-July planting date works best with warm-season grasses like sorghum, sorghum-sudan grass and the millets. If left to grow through the fall, these species can reach heights of six to eight feet and produce quite a bit of above ground biomass.

Oats, wheat, annual ryegrass, the clovers, tillage radish and the like often have an August planting date. What about a July planting date? These species should deal well with hot summer weather. The question is the timing of physiological maturity. Some plants may mature and go to seed before a killing fall frost. If this happens, tillage and/or herbicide will terminate any volunteers.

Regardless of what cover crop is chosen, there are a few things to remember.

· Prevented plant at 60 percent of the guarantee does not allow for grazing or haying of a cover crop before November 1. The cover crop can be terminated via tillage or herbicide before then, however.

· If haying or grazing is needed, there is a “second crop” option that will allow it. The prevented plant payment is decreased to 35% of the guarantee.

· Check with the Farm Service Agency to find what cover crop species are acceptable for prevented plant acres. Crops that can be insured (such as soybeans or alfalfa) are usually not considered acceptable for the 60 percent payment.

· Order, and get delivered, the cover crop seed as soon as possible. Spring 2013 already has seen supplies decreasing and prices increasing.

Again, remember to talk with your insurance agent and Farm Service Agency before making any decision.