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MU Releases Guide Series on Cover Crops

Now available for free download.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Extension offers a new series of guides on cover crops for farmers and farm advisers.

Missouri farmers are planting more cover crops than ever to improve soil health, says Rob Myers, MU adjunct associate professor of plant sciences. He developed the guides.

In the last year, Missouri farmers received nearly $20 million in state and federal funding to plant cover crops.

Cereal rye remains the most popular cover crop, but many farmers plant cover crop mixes, including diverse cover crop “cocktails,” Myers says. They usually plant these mixes after wheat harvest to improve soil or for grazing.

Missouri farmers plant summer crops such as buckwheat, sunflowers and millets as cover crops and sometimes for seed. Canola is another dual-purpose crop that is planted in the fall and overwinters like wheat.

“One of the key principles of soil health is to increase plant diversity in a field, which better supports soil microbes,” says Myers. “This can be done with cover crops or a third cash crop in a corn and soybean rotation. Fortunately, some Missouri-adapted alternative crops work for cash harvest or as cover crops. These new publications tell how to grow and use these versatile crops.”

Crops with potential in Missouri for dual use for cover crop or harvest include sunflowers, buckwheat, canola and diverse millet species. Sunflowers, a true American native, have a long history in Missouri, says Myers. Buckwheat is gaining new interest as a cover crop, even though it also has been grown in Missouri in past years for grain. Canola, an in-demand oilseed, serves as winter cover and for grazing. Diverse millet species work for forage, seed harvest or cover crop use.

The guides in the series are available for free download:

  • Growing Millets for Grain, Forage or Cover Crop Use,
  • Growing Buckwheat for Grain or Cover Crop Use,
  • Growing Canola for Oilseed or Cover Crop Use,
  • Sunflowers: A Versatile Native Crop,

Also:  Cover Crops in Missouri: Putting Them to Work on Your Farm,