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Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crop Initiative Program Succe...

By: Shannon Moeller, Program Coordinator, Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crop Initiative
Original story on Wallaces Farmer

PROVIDING PROTECTION: The Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative began in 2016, with over 175 seed corn growers participating.

Cover crop use among Iowa’s seed corn growers has escalated in the past few years. This is largely due to a Water Quality Initiative grant through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The grant provides education and cost-share funds to seed corn growers through the Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative.

The Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative is administered by the Iowa Seed Association and the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, with support from the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Corn Growers Association, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, IDALS and several seed corn production companies.

Seed corn acres are highly suitable for cover crops. These fields are more vulnerable after harvest than commercial corn acres for a variety of reasons. Removing the tassels from 80% of a field’s plants during the month of July leaves less stalk and leaf residue at harvest. Add to that, every fifth row of seed corn is mowed down in July after detassling. Also, the way seed corn is picked, which includes husks and cobs, leaves very little crop residue on the soil after harvest. These fields are left with little to protect them from wind and rain erosion, and that’s where cover crops can come into play.

 

Seed growers see covers’ benefits

The Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative kicked off in summer 2016, with over 175 seed corn growers across more than 25 counties participating. For more than half of these growers, it was their first time using cover crops. With the cost-share provided through the initiative, over 30,000 seed corn production acres were covered after harvest

Cover crop usage continued to increase in 2017, covering more than 25% of the seed corn production acres in Iowa after harvest (compared to 2% to 3% of Iowa’s total farmed acres having cover crops).

Partnerships are a factor in the success of this project. In areas of the state with other watershed projects, higher percentages of seed corn growers use cover crops and other conservation practices, such as no-till and strip-till planting.

Seed corn companies including Bayer, Corteva, Mycogen, Gro Alliance, Cornelius Seed, Syngenta, Remington Seeds, AgReliant Genetics and Beck’s Hybrids see the benefits of cover crops and promote this practice with their seed growers. Many of these companies have over 50% cover crop use in their seed corn production fields, compared to 5% to 10% cover crop usage across the state before this program was established.

 

Use of covers continues to grow

Company promotion has led to a growing interest in cover crops after seed corn production. Even though seed corn production acres in the state were lower this year than in 2016-17, this project has new growers signing up for cover crops.

Also, projections show that at least 35% of the seed corn production acres in Iowa will likely have cover crops in 2018. This does not factor in the growers who may be using cover crops without cost-share, or who are receiving cost-share through other sources and are therefore ineligible for cost-share through this program.

As seed corn growers continue to see the benefits of cover crops to protect the soil over winter, the percentage of those using them will keep growing. For more information, visit sustainableseedcorn.org.

 

About the Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crop Initiative

The Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative is a project developed by the Iowa Seed Association in conjunction with the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, and Iowa Corn. A grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture under their Clean Water Initiative program provides funding for the project, which began in 2016.

The Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative focuses on ways to help increase adoption of cover crops specifically within the seed corn production system in Iowa. The focus on seed corn is driven by the unique opportunity that seed corn provides due to the earlier harvest, thereby providing better timing opportunities for establishing cover crops in the late summer and fall after harvest. This focus is also heavily driven by the seed corn industry in Iowa, and their efforts to help promote and support the use of cover crops as part of Iowa’s Nutrient Strategy.

Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative

The Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative is a new project developed by the Iowa Seed Association in conjunction with the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Corn, and the Soil and Water Conservation Society. A $1.1M grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture under their Clean Water Initiative program will fund the project starting this growing season and running through the end of 2018.

The Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative will focus on ways to help increase adoption of cover crops specifically within the seed corn production system in Iowa. The focus on seed corn is driven by the unique opportunity that seed corn provides due to the earlier harvest, thereby providing better timing opportunities for establishing cover crops in the late summer and fall after harvest. This focus is also heavily driven by the seed corn industry in Iowa, and their efforts to help promote and support the use of cover crops as part of Iowa’s Nutrient Strategy.

Primary Objectives:

  • Directly engage seed corn companies to work with their growers on adopting cover crops
  • Increase the number of seed corn growers utilizing cover crops
  • Develop and deploy new strategic partnerships with agricultural retailers to provide turn-key services for growers to assist them with cover crop implementation
  • Develop and distribute educational and informational materials primarily targeted to entry-level audiences to provide more focus on beginning cover crop user needs
  • Hold demonstration field days and grower meetings to provide information and advice designed to equip farmers with the resource support needed for successful establishment and management of cover crops

Project Details:

  • Funds will be made available exclusively to farmers that grow seed corn
  • Cost-Share (C/S) assistance is available to growers for planting cover crops on seed corn acres only.
  • Both winter and non-winter hardy cover crops are allowed.
  • C/S rate available to growers is $15/acre regardless of cover crop type.
  • Seed companies and other supporting partners can offer incentives of their own in addition to the $15/acre C/S from project funds if they desire to do so (e.g. discounts on cover crop seed or seeding services, or $/acre incentives from seed companies).

For More Information:

Call or e-mail Shawn Richmond at 515-868-0201 or shawnatagribizdotorg  (shawnatagribizdotorg)  .