WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Dry Weather Could Hurt Cover Crops

Aug 22, 2013

The USDA has issued a report saying over half of Illinois, and over 80 percent of Iowa is abnormally dry but corn and soybeans are not the only crops at risk if the dry weather continues.

Cover crops are planted in the fall after the main crop.

They’re used to limit soil erosion, to act as green manure, and control weeds.

If dry weather continues, cover crops may suffer too.
Credit SSS

Joel Gruver, Soil Science and Sustainable Agriculture Professor at Western Illinois University, said the popularity of cover crops has grown rapidly in recent years.

He said their use has expanded beyond experts who can "roll with the punches."

“We’re starting to bring in farmers that don’t like to do risky things. So when they have a failure, if they planted covers crops this fall and it never rained and they didn’t grow, that might be it. They might decide I’m not trying cover crops again,” Gruver said.

Gruver said cover crops are best planted into moist soil, or need moisture soon after being planted. So how much rain the region gets in the next couple of months is critical.

Also since a late planting and lower temperatures have delayed the corn and soybean crops, farmers will have a narrow window to plant cover crops.

Gruver said that corn and soybeans won't be ready to be harvested until mid-October. By that time, he said, only a few cover crops species will have the right growing lengths to be planted.