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Raising Cover Crop Seed May Alleviate Supply Headaches

No-tillers could lower costs and diversify income by raising cover crop seed, but knowing state and federal seed laws is important if it becomes a business.


Pictured Above: SEED COMING. Cereal rye is harvested at the 5,500-acre, mixed-use Whiterock Conservancy near Coon Rapids, Iowa, where 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans are raised. The organization has been raising cereal rye for seed since 2008, and also using it as part of a diversified mix to better utilize available nutrients in the soil and improve soil health, says land manager Rob Davis
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While there are plenty of companies who are making cover crop seed available, many no-tillers who are cost conscious, having supply issues or want to diversify their farm income are raising their own cover crop seed. 

While they’re often limited to raising small grains like cereal rye, wheat, barley or triticale, some no-tillers are reporting significant savings by raising their own seed. And for others, it’s turned into a profitable on-farm enterprise.

A recent survey by Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), distributed to PFI members every 3 years, concluded that 14% of all members reported raising cover crop seed on their farm, says Sarah Carlson, PFI’s Midwest cover crop director.

Small Start

Richard Sloan, who no-tills corn and soybeans in Buchanan County, Iowa, has been seeding his own cover crops for a few years, after an NRCS district conservationist convinced him to sign up for a 5-year program that required him to plant 20 acres of small grains.

The contract expires this year and although he may let some of his rented land go, he wants to do another contract as it helps him with…

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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