You may be familiar with the use of cover crops in corn and soybean production, what about other crops? First, what is a cover crop? It is a crop not intended to be harvested, but used for other benefits.

Cover crops are planted after the previous crop is harvested in the fall. Benefits of cover crops include reduced weed pressure the next growing season. These plantings may also allow the farmer to manage disease and insect problems before and during the growing season.

On Feb. 7 a presentation titled “Cover Crops for Fruit/Vegetable Farms” will be offered at the McLean County Extension office in Bloomington. The morning program will be presented by Grant McCarty, Extension Educator in Local Food Systems and Small Farms, from 10 a.m. until noon.

If you ask Grant about cover crop use in vegetable production he will offer this advice: “A cover crop planted correctly and managed well can give nearly 100 percent weed control while it is growing, and provide substantial weed management benefits. With recent shifts in organic production and specialty crops, cover crops are being used more often to address nutrient needs for fruit and vegetable farms. Picking the right cover crop may also allow the farmer to address their disease, insect, and weed problems before and during the growing season.”

In the afternoon of Feb. 7, McCarty will continue talking about cover crops, but in a different application - backyard gardens. “Cover Crops for Backyard Gardens” will be offered for backyard garden enthusiasts at the McLean County Extension office from 1-3 p.m.

McCarty said, “While many large farms will plant rye and wheat after corn/beans, backyard growers can gain many benefits out of introducing these in smaller plantings. These benefits include soil nutrient management, attracting beneficial insects, and sequestering nitrogen into the soil for next season.”

This program will introduce the basics of getting started in cover crop production, criteria to consider in choosing cover crops on the small scale, and general management guidelines to get the most out of cover crops this next season.

There is a fee of $5 to attend either of the two cover crop programs being presented on Feb. 7. If you are interested in registering, call the Extension office in Bloomington at 309-663-8306.

For more information on University of Illinois Extension programming in Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Moultrie and Shelby counties, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at 217-345-7034.

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