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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Planning For Fall Cover Crops

Dairy Pipeline: September 2008

John Welsh, Extension Agent, Rockingham County
(540) 564-3080;

In a few short weeks dairymen will be caught up in the fury of harvesting and storing this year’s corn silage crop. The cover crop planting that will follow certainly deserves a little extra consideration this year. While it appears that feed prices may be easing somewhat this fall it is certain that profit margins continue to be tight with the higher costs of nearly all agricultural inputs. There are a number of cover crop strategies that may help your finances this fall.

DCR has several cover crop BMP’s that are offered by your local SWCD. These practices are justified by the notion that winter cover crops scavenge unused nitrogen and prevent the runoff of unused nutrients and soil over winter. The SL-8B practice provides a cost share payment and VA Tax Credit in exchange for establishing a cover crop and maintaining cover until March 14th. As with any government program there more than a few stipulations including a planting date prior to October 25th, 2 bushel/acre planting rate and a prohibition on harvesting the crop. The cost share rate is $20/acre with a $15/acre early planting incentive and a $5/acre approved rye cultivar bonus payment for a maximum of $40/acre.

For those farms that are not able to forego harvesting their small grain, the SL-8H practice offers a cost share payment of $20/acre or VA Tax Credit in exchange for planting a rye cover prior to October 5th, leaving it in place until March 14th and is limited to 300 acres per applicant.

In light of higher nitrogen prices, dairymen may want to consider the WQ-4 Legume Cover Crop practice. Crimson clover used a winter cover crop has been shown to sequester as much as 100 lbs of N/acre while providing winter cover. The practice pays $20/acre and a VA tax credit in exchange for planting prior to September 15th and leaving the crop residue to serve as mulch for the next crop.

To learn more about these cover crop programs contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District or visit DCR’s Ag BMP Manual online at:

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