Crop Insurance Today Third Quarter 2020 - 8

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Crop Insurance and Cover Crops
By Alyssa Milliken, NCIS Intern, and Dr. James Houx, NCIS

Farmers have long been the original stewards
of the land, adapting constantly to changing seed
genetics, available technology, Mother Nature,
and new perils that can damage their hard work
almost overnight. While turning a profit is always
the goal, every farmer knows that caring for the
land is of utmost importance to ensure the successful continuation of the operation. Utilization
of cover crops is one way farmers prioritize the
health of their soil, making choices that positively
impact their cropping systems.
Cover crops have been around in one fashion or another since the beginning of agrarian
societies. Today cover crops have emerged at the
forefront of agriculture. Sustainable Agriculture
Research & Education (SARE) estimates that
cover crops are protecting and improving nearly
20 million acres of cropland. Ten years ago, cover

crops were not as well known, but education and
outreach programs have reached farmers and
they have reaped the varied benefits that cover
crops can provide.
Adding cover crops to conventional cropping
systems can enhance the resiliency of the overall system through soil health. The Natural Resources Conservation Service states, in general,
that organic matter levels have fallen from five
or six percent to less than three percent on most
cropland soils. Improving organic matter levels is
paramount for producers as organic matter is the
foundation for the benefits that revolve around
soil health.
"The main thing for me is soil health first because if we can't get organic matter levels to increase then we're just wasting our time out here,"
said Darin Williams, a farmer from Waverly,

Kan. "A lot of these farms we started on with cover crops ten years ago were in the 2-2.4 percent
level [of organic matter] and now we're seeing
3-3.2 percent readings on a lot of those farms."
For Williams, cover crops also provide
enough weed control that he does not have to rely
on herbicide-resistant soybean cropping systems.
He plants non-GMO soybeans that draw a premium and are more profitable for his operation.
Besides soil health and weed suppression, a
few of the additional benefits cover crops provide
are insect suppression, erosion control, improved
groundwater quality, and improved soil tilth. For
farmer John McFarland of Ottawa, Kan., erosion
control is his primary focus.
"I use it as something to keep the soil in
place when we don't have a crop growing on it,"
McFarland said.

Cereal rye terminated and waiting for soybean planting. This farmer prefers to plant green, but planting was delayed at the last minute by unexpected rainfall.


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Crop Insurance Today Third Quarter 2020

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http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/cint/may2016
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http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/cint/november2015
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