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Reports: Cover Crops on the Rise in Missouri

PHOTO: New reports from the National Wildlife Federation encourage producers in Missouri to think about cover crops for in-between seasons. Photo courtesy NWF.
PHOTO: New reports from the National Wildlife Federation encourage producers in Missouri to think about cover crops for in-between seasons. Photo courtesy NWF.
October 1, 2013

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Fallow season in Missouri could turn into growing season - with benefits for farmers' bottom lines and rivers. A pair of new reports from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) encourage producers to think about cover crops for in-between seasons.

Report author Lara Bryant makes the case that cover crops provide "wins" all the way around, and although the trend is rising, less than 2 percent of cropland throughout the Midwest is planted during the "off-season."

"The Missouri River is a vital part of the economy and culture in Missouri, so it's important that farmers use cover crops to keep nutrients in the field and out of streams. That saves farmers money on fertilizer, it provides cleaner water to Missouri citizens," Bryant said.

Cover crops can be a variety of plants, such as clover, oats, radishes and ryes. Choices depend on seed availability and cash-crop rotation, as well as climate and management requirements.

Bryant explained that the potential for cover crops throughout the Midwest has yet to be tapped, although the benefits are clear - not just locally, but throughout the Mississippi River Basin.

"They keep the nutrients on the ground and out of streams. They improve the quality of the soil, so over time, you'll see improved yields in the crops. And they also sequester a lot of carbon," she said.

In Ohio, water-treatment facilities are paying farmers to install cover crops because they keep phosphorus from running off the land and into those facilities.

The reports, "Counting Cover Crops," and "Clean Water Grows," are at www.nwf.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MO