New cover croppers can learn from vegetable growers


New cover croppers can learn from vegetable growers

Ajay Nair, Iowa State University Extension

As cover crop incentives gain momentum for grain farmers, an extension specialist says those new to the practice can learn a lot from vegetable growers.

Ajay Nair with Iowa State University says vegetable growers have been utilizing cover crops for quite some time.

“In fact, vegetable growers use way more cover crops than grain farmers in terms of the diversity because of duration of different vegetable seasons. Some are 60 days, some are 80 days, others are 90 days, so we are not tied for a whole season in a particular plot with a particular vegetable.”

Since many vegetable growers label products as organic or sustainable, cover crops serve as a substitute for herbicides and one of their only forms of nitrogen while also providing the same benefits row crop farmers see like reduced erosion and improved soil health.

“The benefits which the cover crop will provide might not be evident in year one or even year two. It might take multiple years to see that benefit, but once you start using cover crops for several years you realize that yes the soils are changing.”       

While seasons and cover crop types may differ between large grain farms and vegetable operations, Nair says the two groups can bounce ideas off each other to improve cover crop use.

Brownfield interviewed Nair at the Illinois Specialty Crop Conference in Springfield.

Interview with Ajay Nair