At a meeting hosted by the Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and ECI Coop, the message to the area producers regarding the use of cover crops was a simple one: “Try something.”

Held on the campus of Hawkeye Community College on June 30, around 50 area producers learned about the potential benefits cover crops can have on their farming operation. Interest in cover crops continues to grow, as states along the Mississippi River look for ways to reduce the number of nutrients flowing from a variety of sources into the waterway that, ultimately, delivers them to the Gulf of Mexico, where they feed huge algae blooms that create oxygen-free areas where fish and other aquatic wildlife can’t survive.

In addition to fighting wind and water erosion, cover crops can also help improve the overall quality of soil. At the meeting, presentations made by three separate producers illustrated how cover crops can benefit distinctly different operations.

Tim Daly of Bankston, described the positive impact they continue to offer his livestock operation, providing feed for his animals who, in turn, supply the land they graze with fertilizer.

Jack Boyer and Dick Sloan, Practical Farmer of Iowa (PFI) champion farmers, described how the implementation of cover crops have impacted their operations. One of the keys to success, Boyer noted, is choosing the correct cover crop(s) that aligns with the producer’s goals. The choice of crops to plant can vary widely. depending on the desired outcome.

Jim Gillespie of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, stressed the impact Iowa farmers who choose to utilize cover crops can have on the state’s overall quality of water.

“It’s for us here. We’re a long way from the Gulf of Mexico,” he stated.

“I have faith in agriculture in Iowa that we’ll do the right thing to improve the quality of water,” he added.

In their efforts to get started, Gillespie encouraged area farmers to make the effort to learn from each other.

“I think farmer to farmer exchange is one of the greatest tools we have,” he said.

Area producers interested in learning more about cover crops, agency programs and the potential financial incentives that may be available, are encouraged to contact Shane Wulf of the Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District at 319-296-3262, extension 305.