Equipping farmers to build resilient farms and communities.
Mark Schleisman plants cover crops on 4,500 acres of his corn, soy, seed corn, and popcorn acres near Lake City, Iowa. He also raises hogs and has a cow-calf operation which graze the cover crop. In addition to his own farm, Mark custom seeds cover crops for neighbors. Last week we chatted with Mark about how he gets cover crops planted on so many acres.

Seeding with ground rig, aerial application versus drilling: Mark notes that while drilling cover crops results in a higher germination rate than overseeding, he overseeds [plants into a standing, near maturity crop] some of his acres because planting earlier allows for better fall establishment on late harvested crop acres. He estimates that overseeding is typically 30-50% less expensive than aerial application.

Overseeding timing: Mark will start overseeding into his standing corn and beans once leaf drop begins and he can see sunlight reaching the soil-- about 30% sunlight into the canopy. However, Mark warns that overseeding certain varieties (especially oats) much earlier than August 15 over a soybean crop could potentially cause issues with green cover crop material in combine heads at harvest. Corn isn’t typically an issue due to the height of the combine head.

He also advises to not wait too long to overseed into corn, because the high clearance sprayer used for planting could disturb or knock off corn ears. “If ears have started tipping you probably don’t want the tires of the ground rig knocking them off,” Mark says.

Selecting cover crop varieties: Mark’s grazing needs and soil conditions guide which cover crops he plants. He plants the following in the fall.
• For fall grazing, oats
• For spring grazing, rye
• For fall and spring grazing, an oat and rye mix

He reserves planting more expensive seed like radish for fields with higher rates of compaction, like his seed corn fields.
What will be the dominant way you establish cover crops this fall?
Overseed into a standing crop with a ground rig
Aerial application
Broadcast post harvest, no incorporation
Broadcast post harvest, with incorporation (VT, etc.)
Previous poll results:
What is your NUMBER ONE reason for planting cover crops?
  • Increase organic matter - 39.4%
  • Reduce soil erosion - 33.3%
  • Weed control - 12.1%
  • Livestock forage - 9.1%
  • Improve water quality - 6.1%
New this year is the "40 x 40" program, through which farmers brand-new to cover crops can earn $40 per acre on up to 40 acres of cover-cropped ground. This program will pay for your cover crop expenses and surround yourself with farmer experts to succeed with cover crops this fall. Farmers selling soybeans to the ADM supplyshed in Des Moines or corn direct to Cargill plant at Eddyville are eligible.

Know a neighbor who is on the fence and wants to give cover crops a try? Sign them up for PFI's "40 x 40" program!
Where are you sourcing your cover crop seed? Who is custom planting for you this fall? Find out what is available near you through our online cover crop directory.

To get your business listed in the cover crop business directory, e-mail jason@practicalfarmers.org with your business name, services offered, website or Facebook page, location and phone number.
Stefan Gailans, PFI's research and field crops director, summarizes a joint research effort between PFI and Iowa Learning Farms. The project looked at how overseeding compares to drilling cover crops and how cover crop seeding date impacts biomass accumulation.
Are you wanting to plant cover crops, but not sure where to start? This fun, interactive sheet guides the user through the decision of what cover crop will work best in their operation.

Following a series of yes or no questions about cover crop planting method and date leads the user to recommendations for cover crop varieties and seeding rates that will fit with their equipment and operation.
Cover crop planting season is coming for the northern Cornbelt! Many farmers are gearing up to aerial seed cover crops but how can we make sure we have green fields in the fall during harvest?
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 you're interested. The last meet-up brought together more than 40 farmers!
Come learn more about cover crops during these specific field days!
Head to our website for more details and directions for these events and more.
Host: Adam Nechanicky
August 6 | 2 - 7 p.m. | Buckingham

Host: Greg Rebman
August 22 | 1 - 4 p.m. | Frederick, IL
Host: CTIC
August 20 & 21 | Central Iowa

Hosts: Greg Rebman & Dr. Allen Williams
August 23 | 8:30 a.m - 4 p.m. | Frederick, IL

Hosts: Greg Rebamn and Dr. Allen Williams
August 24 | 8:30 a.m - 4 p.m. | Vienna, IL
Hosts: Ted & Linda Krauskopf
August 26 & 27 | 9 a.m - 4 p.m. | Highland, IL

Hosts: Jon Dana and Dr. Allen Williams
August 28 | 8:30 a.m - 4 p.m. | Richmond, MO
Alisha Bower
Strategic Initiatives Manager
(515) 232-5661
Sarah Carlson
Strategic Initiatives Director
(515) 232-5661
Chris Wilbeck
Independent Contractor
(515) 232-5661
Rebecca Clay
Strategic Initiatives Assistant
(515) 232-5661