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As more and more no-tillers embrace cover crops, the production of the seed itself has become a rapidly growing industry in which marketing can sometimes outpace performance.
Even the most experienced cover-crop users will readily admit that there’s a lot to be learned before they can manage covers at a high level. But there can be significant differences between one bag and the next — as well as the companies that provide them.
“Like no other time in recent history, this is certainly a time to warn the buyer to beware,” says Geff, Ill., no-tiller Terry Taylor.
Intensely interested in finding answers for cover-crop management challenges, Taylor has been planting covers for 30 years and has hosted research plots since 1994 with cover-crop pioneer and former University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University researcher Mike Plumer.
Although cover-crop seed sources have improved in many respects, the marketplace still offers plenty of opportunities for missteps, according to farmers and ag-industry experts.
A lack of knowledge and experience about the ag industry, coupled with rapidly growing demand, opens the door for less-than-stellar products that are sometimes aggressively marketed to unsuspecting consumers, Taylor says.
“There are quality individual products that have earned a premium, but they are far outnumbered by average products backed by optimistic claims and marketing hype,” Taylor says. “There are huge quantities of product sourced on the open market and coming into the Midwest with little or no pedigree, and no track record.
“Knowledgeable and trustworthy seedsmen are…