Keep cover crops until spring to protect fields

Farm Forum

ST. PAUL, Minn. – University of Minnesota Extension encourages producers to keep cover crops in place until spring. Early termination of cover crops is often an unnecessary management process that undermines the benefit cover crops can provide and may introduce additional problems.

“Cover crops protect fields from harsh winter weather and help reduce tillage passes and herbicide use in prevented-planting or early harvest circumstances,” said Jill Sackett, Extension educator. “Terminating cover crops early is not a good use of money and can lead to soil erosion and nutrient loss. It’s important to have green cover and live roots in crop fields as long as possible. Give the cover crops the chance to do what they do.

Annual cover crops like oats, tillage radishes and turnips won’t regrow in the spring, so they don’t need to be controlled. They benefit fields when left over winter by controlling erosion and adding organic matter to the soil. Frost-resistant cover crops such as turnips and winter rye can be grazed in late fall to extend the grazing season. Cover crops that regrow in the spring, like winter wheat and winter rye, can be managed at that time with an herbicide or by tillage. Crop insurance policies should be consulted before grazing or terminating the cover crop, particularly on prevented- planting acres.

Cover crops also help prevent fallow syndrome. Read “Reduce risk of fallow syndrome” by Lizabeth Stahl and Jill Sackett at http://