Due to the excessive rain and saturated soils that many farmers are experiencing, our typical crops are not getting planted, leaving farmers to develop alternative planting plans. Many farmers are taking prevented planting designation on acres that they could not get planted. After taking prevent plant, what do you do with these fields?
Here are some key factors to consider for prevented planting:
- Leaving ground fallow is not a great option. Fallow ground has a greater risk of soil erosion and has a higher likelihood of nutrient leaching. Loss of nitrates, sulfates and other nutrients is not good for the environment, especially sensitive watersheds, but you are also losing important nutrients that could be used by a following crop.
- Bare ground encourages fallow syndrome. This occurs when there is no plant growth in an area for an extended period of time. We see a reduction of active mycorrhizae in fallow ground as the mycorrhizae rely upon actively growing roots to survive. Corn and small grains tend to be more affected by fallow syndrome, but it can also happen in soybean stands.
- Planting an annual crop on prevented planting acres or drowned-out spots can help maintain levels of mycorrhizae in the soil. An annual crop provides multiple benefits to the soil instead of allowing weed populations to thrive and cause future management issues.
Understand the Guidelines
- Please note: under prevented planting provisions a cover crop or emergency forage CANNOT be grazed or harvested for forage until after November 1 and cannot ever be harvested for grain without reduction to prevent plant coverage payment. Dates may vary depending on your state or region. Please check with your local state or county FSA office for further information on grazing restrictions. Update: As of June 20, 2019 the U.S. Department of Agriculture adjusted the 2019 final haying and grazing date from November 1 to September 1. Read the full press release here: https://www.rma.usda.gov/en/News-Room/Press/Press-Releases/2019-News/RMA-Announces-Change-to-Haying-and-Grazing-Date
Think About Herbicide Restrictions
- Consider herbicides already applied on the acres not yet planted. In many cases, cover crops and other non-traditional crops are not listed on the herbicide label. Land grant universities are helping to determine what options farmers have in the case of prevent plant or other cropping systems with quick seeding windows.
- If a cover crop is being planted for a non-forage goal (with no harvest), the grower assumes the risk if the cover crop is not listed on the label. However, if that cover crop will be harvested as forage, either mechanically or by livestock, then rotational restrictions on the label must be followed.
Keep Weeds Under Control
- One benefit of cover crops is the ability to suppress weeds. Cover crops suppress weeds by canopying the ground and providing competition for seedlings. Cover crops are good for providing long-lasting weed control and serving as another mode of action. Start with a clean field, then plant cover crop species that can out-compete the weed species you are targeting.
- Using cover crop mixes allows for diversity and the opportunity to spread risk. Mixes also allow for reduced weather risks, help break pest cycles and prevent erosion that some monoculture species are vulnerable to. Added benefits include nitrogen fixing and improved soil health as well.
- When seeding certain species in late spring/early summer, expect a few more management challenges such as stand establishment, plants setting seed, biomass control, pest control, maintaining forage quality, etc.
The best time to start planting your cover crops for prevent planting is sometime in mid-July. Most of the cover crops are annuals and if you plant them too early they are more prone to bolting or heading out. After mid-July the risk of bolting is minimized, and annuals will no longer have enough time to produce viable seeds if left untouched.
- Most prevent plant areas will be weedy prior to planting. There are two ways to control these weeds to ensure that your cover crop is successful. They are:
- Do a tillage pass first then plant your cover crop.
- Do a burndown pass prior to tillage and planting. Make sure to understand and follow all label plant back restrictions.
Cover Crop Selection
- Each cover crop provides unique benefits to the soil, so make sure to choose a product that is good for you. You can create your own mix or purchase a recommended cover crop mix. If you want to create your own mix the NRCS has a Cover Crop Excel Worksheet which can help you tailor the mix to your needs. Legend Seeds carries a variety of cover crops and cover crop mixes from La Crosse Seeds. Visit our Specialty Products page to learn more. Depending on what you are using the crop for (i.e. just a cover crop or for an emergence forage) you will need to match the cover crop to your goal.
- Make sure to check with your local NRCS field office. There are programs available to help with prevented planting and cover crops.
Below are our recommendations for cover crop mixes:
Once you have decided on a cover crop choice, approach this decision armed with good information. Selecting the right cover crops will help you reach your goals. Remember to watch insurance dates and restrictions.
Soil First Management Guide 7th Edition:
NRCS South Dakota website:
NRCS Cover Crop Excel Worksheet (can be found under Additional Resources tab):
Soil First: APPLYING FOR NRCS COST SHARE: