Cover crops usage trending upwards in Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cover crops usage trending upwards in Iowa

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Tim Daly has been walking the fields of his farm near Bankston for more than three decades.

But in the past 12 years or so, he's started to change the way he does things.

He started planting cover crops, and now uses them on his more than 500 acres of land.

Cover crops can be things like grass, oats or radishes, among others, and are planted in the fall, and either die or are killed off in the spring.

"The  main benefit I have for my cover crops is I have 250 acres I can graze my cattle on," Daly said.

But these crops also help maintain the integrity of his fields.

"It prevents erosion in the spring from spring rains, to hold the ground in place. And then in the winter, our wind erosion, if you have a bare winter with no snow, your ground is covered with covered crops that died after the frost," Daly said.

Cover crops are used by just 20 percent of Iowa farmers, according to a recent Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll.  Part of the reason that number is so low is that using cover crops can be quite expensive.

Daly says it costs him usually between $30-50 per acre to plant them.

But Daly is hoping the payoff will come years down the road when his soil is healthy.

"The cover crops build organic matter, and to get top end corn yield, bean yield,  you have to have high organic matters in your soil. So by leaving your soil bare, you aren't building organic matter," Daly said.

In the poll, 33 percent of farmers say they didn't use cover crops this year, but are considering it in the future.

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