The Midwest Cover Crops Council Serves as Resource Hub for Professionals, Farmers, and Cover Crop Enthusiasts
By Helen VanBeck
Last week, the Illinois Cover Crop On-Farm Network (ICCON) was joined by Anna Morrow, program manager with the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC). The MCCC facilitates the widespread adoption of cover crops across 12 midwestern states and the province of Ontario by developing resources, building a network of professionals, and contributing to regional publications. Morrow provided an overview of the MCCC’s resources and shared updates on the Council’s future plans and upcoming Annual Conference.
Cover Crop Resources
The MCCC hosts a clearinghouse of cover crop research, data-based tools, and outreach materials for farmers, advisors, and conservation professionals on their website. On the Illinois state page, for example, you can find state-specific resources, contact information for local experts, and annual reports of state-wide initiatives. The website also allows users to browse their database by category, identifying specific cover crop topics and accessing related extension publications from across the Midwest.
The third edition of the MCCC’s Cover Crops Field Guide was released in December 2021 and is now available for purchase. This popular, pocket-sized reference booklet helps farmers and advisors to effectively select, grow, and integrate cover crops into their farming systems. Updates to the new edition include recommendations for cover crop termination, a revised herbicide guide, and new information on planting green into cover crops.
The MCCC knows that many farmers across the country are intrigued by cover crops. They’ve spoken with their peers, seen the benefits on a neighbor’s field, or have been convinced by a trusted advisor. But sorting through all the available options to find the right cover crop can be an overwhelming process. In an attempt to support farmers who are looking for a low-risk entry point to cover crops, the MCCC has developed Cover Crop Recipes specific to a farmer’s state and crop rotation. These recipes, which were developed in collaboration with agency and extension partners, are a step-by-step guide to getting started with cover crops.
For farmers with a bit more cover crop experience, the Council has developed a Cover Crop Decision Tool. The tool enables farmers to identify the best cover crop species for their farm, taking into account their location, on-farm goals, cash crop planting seasons, and soil drainage types. By pulling 30 years of climate data based on a user’s county, the Decision Tool can provide specific seeding date recommendations for each cover crop species.
Future Plans & Annual Conference
Beyond the MCCC’s current resources, there are several exciting projects on the horizon. The Council is working in partnership with Indiana NRCS to develop an easy-to-use Seeding Rate Calculator. The calculator will be able to determine rates for simply a few species or a more complex mix. Users will be able to export their seeding rate plan to share with their agronomist, other farmers, or their conservation planner. The calculator will include an option to compare seeding rate recommendations against NRCS standards so users can determine whether they are eligible for NRCS cost-share programs. Maintaining state-specific databases of NRCS standards is a big undertaking, so the Council has plans to go state-by-state across the Midwest, starting with Indiana.
The MCCC is busy developing resources for farmers and advisors alike. In collaboration with the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, the Council is working to produce a series of publicly available Crop Advisor Modules. MCCC experts will host the modules as virtual webinars when they are released, and the original presentations will be available on the MCCC website. The Council hopes that crop advisors and conservation professionals will utilize these presentations in their outreach and education efforts when discussing the benefits of cover crops.
To stay informed as new resources are developed and new learning opportunities become available, sign up for the MCCC Listerv. MCCC invites everyone to join their upcoming Annual Conference in Ada, OH on March 7-9. There will be opportunities to network with MCCC folks so you can hear what the council is working on and join a project if you’re interested. Stay tuned for registration information!
If you are interested in joining the Illinois Cover Crop On-Farm Network to learn about new research and hear from cover crop specialists across the Midwest, you can register for our monthly calls or join our google group by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.