Cover Crops Can Boost Beneficial Insects

An expert on pest management programs from the University of Nebraska explores how cover crops can be successfully integrated to help control pests in cropping systems.

Your Farm's integrated pest management program (IPM) might include a variety of pest control tactics. Cover crops can be a valuable addition to an IPM as a sustainable, long-term practice, according to Justin McMechan, assistant professor for crop protection and cropping systems with University of Nebraska Extension. 

No-Till Farmer: What are some benefits to using cover crops to control pests instead of a pesticide?

McMechan: A large majority of insecticides are very broad spectrum, meaning they kill a lot of different kinds of bugs. Pesticides cost money to apply, generally wipe out the system, including the good bugs like spiders, carabid beetles, etc., and leave the system blank for something new to come in that’s potentially worse — like black cutworms or common stalk borer. We do need insecticides on occasion, they are of value, but it really depends on the scenario. Cover crops align themselves with proper management under an area of potential preventative management by increasing the ecosystem services they serve and reducing potential pest pressure. 

NTF: What are some important considerations when a grower wants to use cover crops in an IPM?

McMechan: One of the main things to think about is when to terminate a cover crop…

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Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill is associate editor for the ag division, contributing primarily to Precision Farming Dealer, Strip-Till Farmer, No-Till Farmer and Cover Crop Strategies. Hill has a farm background and graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Ag Journalism and a minor in Animal Science. She has previously served as managing editor of DairyBusiness and is a member of the National Agri-Marketing Association and American Ag Editors’ Association.

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