Cover crops up and growing in Illinois

Cover crop usage in the state of Illinois is up.  

The 2022 Census of Agriculture shows Illinois farmers have planted more than 880,000 acres of cover crops.  East central Illinois farmer Dirk Rice, who plants a mix of covers, says it’s been a good season for them…

“Stayed warm through a good chunk of the winter, so we actually got better growth later into the fall, and in the early winter than what we normally have.”  He says, “So, you know, depending on what happens here in the next month, they should have a better head start than they had last year.”

West central Illinois farmer Dan Cole has been utilizing the practice for fifteen years.  In addition to erosion control, he tells Brownfield he’s seen many benefits…

“Cover crops also help your soil tilth,” he says, “and your water infiltration and your drought resistance, because like last year, I raised 205 bushels of corn on Class C and D soils in Illinois and the only explanation I can give it is all the rain that fell soaked in.” 

Rice says cover crops bring an added forage base to his cattle operation, but also…

“It does really good at suppressing water hemp.”  He says, “And then I’ve seen where not a very heavy stand of cereal rye; there seems to be some kind of allelopathic effect on marestail.”

Acreage devoted to cover crops in Illinois is up 24-percent from five years ago.  Several programs incentivizing the use of cover crops are available to producers.

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