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Cover Crops Could Mitigate Wet Weather Pains for WI Farmers


MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin farmers are struggling after wet and cold weather this spring and summer. J

im Stute, research director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, says farmers should consider cover crops to alleviate some of the pain. Stute points out the state has a lot of prevented plant acreage, or land that can't be planted because of the unfavorable weather.

He notes that cover crops provide advantages to the soil, including protecting it against erosion, especially if the land is tilled, suppressing weeds and containing nutrients. It also could help protect against fallow syndrome. "And what happens is if you have a fallow field - so you leave it bare for a year - we see a yield reduction in the crop the next year, and we definitely want to avoid that," he states. Stute says folks should call around and see what seeds are available because this is such a widespread problem.

Farmers also should call their crop insurance agent to ensure they are following planting and harvesting rules. Stute says folks can use the cover crop for forage, and usually that has to be harvested after Nov. 1. But because of farmers' struggles this year, that date has been moved up to Sept. 1.

Stute says people in agriculture are frustrated and disappointed for a number of reasons, starting with a downturn in the farm economy that's been going on for several years. "Prices are pretty poor right now and, given the late planting or the prevented plant, that means that yield potential is down, and add on top of that the tariffs and the impact on commodity prices," he states. "That means things are looking pretty bleak for income this year." Several sources are available for cover-crop information, including the University of Wisconsin-Extension and the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service offices.