Equipping farmers to build resilient farms and communities.
Last Saturday at 2 a.m. on Myron Sylling’s (right) farm, an urgent matter emerged. It wasn’t calving; it was time to frost-seed cover crops before the upcoming warm temperatures.

Myron farms with his brother Mikal (left) near Eitzen, MN. They began planting cover crops in 2013 on 300 acres with the help of NRCS-EQIP cost-share. Since then, the Syllings have expanded cover crop coverage to most of their 1,400 acre no-till farm.

Adapting to the weather: With wet fall weather the past few years, Myron decided to try frost-seeding cover crops in the spring. In 2018, he had some cereal rye seed leftover from 2017 and some oats purchased from his neighbor. He enlisted the help of his Force Unlimited fertilizer spreader to frost seed cover crops.
Eyes on the forecast: Perfect conditions rarely present themselves, but Myron says to look at the upcoming week’s forecast for warmer afternoon temperatures. He ideally seeds when there are patches of soil and residue visible, but also some snow. He’ll typically frost seed in the morning when the forecast predicts warmer afternoon temps so the cover crop seed might reach the ground.

Bottom line on his mind: Myron estimates that drilling cover crops in the fall costs him about $16 per acre, and seeding with the fertilizer spreader costs him closer to $5 per acre. With the lower cost of application, Myron ups his seeding rate to about 56 pounds per acre for cereal rye and between one and two bushels per acre for oats. “Plus,” Myron says, “with cereal rye we don’t get any tillering when it's spring-planted. By upping the seeding rate, I get about same number of plants per acre as if it were planted in the fall.”

Buyer beware: While Myron has seen the benefits of frost-seeding cover crops firsthand, he advised other farmers not to get too hasty. “Be sure to not go out driving in the mud,” cautions Myron. “Likewise, if seeding a cocktail mix, think about what temperatures different species need to germinate or you might be wasting your money. And if you’re organic, wait for a temperature so that the rye won’t vernalize and so it will self-terminate,” shared Myron.
Frost-seeding can still get cover crops in the ground
Frost-seeding: Spring-seeded cover crops protect your soil and stimulate mycorrhizal activity.

Managing residual herbicides with cover crops
Living cover crops with a lot of biomass can intercept and influence efficacy of residual herbicide applications. ISU weed specialists Bob Hartzler and Meaghan Anderson explain the science and provide tips on ensuring optimum herbicide performance with over-wintered cover crops. Read more here.
Stefani Millie Grant (pictured second from left) was featured in Successful Farmer for her work leading Unilever's North America Sustainability efforts.

Watch a 2020 cover crop farminar
"Cereal Rye for Weed Management: A New Tool in the Toolbox?"
"Livestock and Cover Crops as a Solution to a Changing Climate"
Have you ever tried spring-seeding cover crops?
Yes and I love it!
Yes I've tried it, but don't currently do it
No but I'd like to try
No and I don't wish to try
Previous poll results:
What's the status of the fields you cover cropped last fall? (Jan. 9)

  • Still seeding cover crops - 6.7%
  • Seeded but not germinated - 40%
  • Germinated and 0-3 inches tall - 40%
  • Germinated and 3+ inches tall - 10%
  • Germinated, grown and winter killed - 3.3%
Ready to invest in cover crops on your farm?  You could earn $1,600 or more to help offset the cost fill out the application now to see if you’re eligible. Farmers who enroll before July 1 may also be eligible for a discount on seed and application through Iowa Cover Crop.
Cover crop events
Hosted by: Agri-Tech Aviation, Iowa Learning Farms and NRCS
March 17 | 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. | Indianola, Iowa
Hosted by: Campbell Farm, Iowa Learning Farms and NRCS
March 18 | 12:30 – 2:30 a.m. | Grand Mound, Iowa
Hosted by: Roger Van Donselaar, ISU Extension, NRCS & Poweshiek SWCD
March 24 | 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. | Grinnell, Iowa
Strip Till & Cover Crop Meeting
Hosted by: Carroll Implement, 1001 Kossuth Ave
March 27 | 8:30 – 11:00 a.m. | Lu Verne, Iowa
Champion Cover Crop Field
Hosted at 6346 100th Ave, Storm Lake
April 6 | 10:00 a.m. | Storm Lake, Iowa
Hosted by: Rick Juchems and IDALS
April 9 | 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. | Plainfield, Iowa
Are you planning or hosting a cover crop field day? Send the details to rebecca@practicalfarmers.org, and we’ll include it in our next newsletter.
Host a cover crop meet-up!
Want to host a casual gathering to talk cover crops? Sarah Carlson will bring the pizza and drinks. You bring the neighbors to talk cover crops. Contact Sarah if interested sarah@practicalfarmers.org.
Sarah Carlson
Strategic Initiatives Director
(515) 232-5661
Chris Wilbeck
Independent Contractor
(515) 232-5661
Rebecca Clay
Strategic Initiatives Assistant
(515) 232-5661