Crops News

Purdue improves tool to help farmers with cover crop decisions


Farmers have watched the benefits of cover crops for many years now — some of which include improve water and soil quality, reduce erosion and capture nutrients. However, knowing the information and utilizing the information are two totally different things. It is very important to chose the right cover crop for your specific needs in order to see the benefit you need.

The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) — made up of representatives from 12 Midwest states and universities, including Purdue and other agricultural stakeholders — is rolling out an improved cover crop selection tool that will help farmers make those decisions. Users select their state/province and county and then select the goals they have for cover crops — erosion control, nitrogen scavenger, fighting weeds and providing forage, etc. They also can provide information about the cash crops they are planting and drainage data for their fields. The tool offers the best cover crop options for the specified conditions. Clicking on the cover crops brings up data sheets that offer more information about each crop, seeding rates and more.

“This gives good information about the species that will fit each user’s unique situation — their rotations, timeframes and goals,” said Anna Morrow, program manager for the MCCC and a staff member in Purdue’s Department of Agronomy. “We’ve been able to give users a visual way to take in and process that information.”

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The Midwest Cover Crops Council’s new cover crop selection tool offers cover crop recommendations and seeding dates customized for individual goals and historical weather data by county. The updated tool also includes more accurate seeding dates for each county based on 30-year National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration frost date data, changes to seeding dates and rates to align with new research, and is now mobile-friendly.

“We met with farmers, researchers, government agencies, agribusiness leaders and stakeholders in all the states and provinces we represent to get the most up-to-date information available and update the tool in ways that would be most beneficial for our users,” Morrow said. “This tool is good for farmers who want to get started with or are currently using cover crops and need to get reliable, current information to help them make the best decisions for their operations.”

The tool has updated data for Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario. North Dakota and South Dakota, which were not part of the original tool, have been added. The remaining four states, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, have been recently updated or added to the tool and will be updated again over the next two years.

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