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Cover Crops: Drought & Flood Protection for Iowa Farms

PHOTO: Farmers across the Midwest are looking at huge crop losses from another year of extreme weather conditions  and one of the least expensive solutions may be planting a cover crop.
PHOTO: Farmers across the Midwest are looking at huge crop losses from another year of extreme weather conditions and one of the least expensive solutions may be planting a cover crop.
August 27, 2012

DES MOINES, Iowa - Farmers in Iowa and across the Midwest are looking at huge crop losses from another year of extreme weather conditions, and one of the least expensive ways to ease the situation may be planting cover crops.

Taylor County farmer Kelly Tobin has been planting cover crops for the last three years. He says he's discovered that planting rye, in particular, allows for absorption of water in wet years, and holding water in dry years.

"The roots have gone down and they let that water follow, so that's a big advantage there. And then in the wet year, the rye absorbs more of the water and the nitrate."

Tobin says the difference on fields where he planted cover crops can not only be seen in how the crop looks, but in the yield after harvest.

"Yields where the rye was out-yielded the other, five and six bushels to the acre."

He says farmers need to get a cover crop in just as soon as the regular crops are harvested, so that it can reach its peak by the time the ground freezes. Tobin, who has been working with Practical Farmers of Iowa, hosted more than 80 farmers from across the state on a tour of his farm last week, sharing tips about how to get the best results from planting cover crops this fall.

Richard Alan, Public News Service - IA