Cover Crop Data and Decision Tools


Illinois Stewardship Alliance has collected survey data from  past local cover crop workshops and seminars as well as other Agricultural Conservation related statistical data that the Illinois State University Department of Agriculture has used under the guidance of Dr. Shalamar Armstrong, Agronomist, to form a Geospatial Analysis on Agricultural Cover Crop Survey Statistics.  Please use this data to better understand the trends in Cover Crop adoptions in Agricultural Management on Illinois farms. View: Full ISU Data Project


Are you thinking about adding cover crops to your farming operation but just don’t know where to begin? What cover crop species should I plant and when? When should I terminate the cover crops? What are the benefits? What are the risks? Where can I find answers that fit my type of farming operation? We are beginning to see an increase in on-line information to help farmers answer these questions.

One of the best references is the: “Cover Crop Decision Tool,” on the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) website. It is a free online tool that gives you answers to which cover crops are best used in your specific county and in targeting the benefits that you are wanting from cover crops. It is also specific to each type of cash crop you will be growing. The goal of the MCCC is to make this website the one location that you will access for all your specific cover crop decisions.

Another useful tool is the book  “Managing Cover Crops Profitably 3rd Edition.” You can purchase the book at the link above for $19.00 or simply download the free online file version. This book has a wealth of information for corn and soybean farmers as well as specialty crop farmers. The one downside of referring to a book as apposed to a website is that a book can become outdated while websites can constantly update and publish new material. Because of this particular characteristic of websites,  it is my opinion that the seeding rates are more up to date on the Midwest Cover Crop tool. It is also easier to tailor those rates to your specific needs.

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance Cover Crop Business Directory is another great resource. This directory has Illinois Cover Crop Seed Dealers, as well as aerial applicators.

Another useful resource might be your local fertilizer service company. More and more are investing in equipment to deal with cover crop application in standing crops like corn and soybeans.  Check with your local farm service provider to see if they have the equipment to handle your cover crop needs.

Lastly, the Illinois USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Illinois Department of Agriculture as well as Illinois Stewardship Alliance are compiling lists of Cover Crop Farmers that have successfully made the transition to applying cover crops into their farming operation. These farmers’ operations will soon be listed for your reference on each of the different agencies’ and organizations’ websites. These farmers are attending local cover crop field days, seminars, and coffee shop farmer round table discussions that are being held around the state. New cover crop trainers have been trained to outreach the information on a more local level. Call your local county Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to see when they have scheduled an up-coming cover crop educational event. If your county does not have one scheduled for 2014 or 2015, please have them email: Illinois Stewardship Alliance and your local SWCD will work on developing a program for your county as soon as possible.

If you are looking to enroll in a conservation program to receive assistance from your County NRCS or SWCD, please do not delay. The amount of money allocated to the new budget in the 2014 USDA Farm Bill is likely to continue to shrink in program dollars.