With more no-tillers interested in cashing in on cover crops to boost yields, slash fertilizer costs and curb soil erosion, everyone needs to understand the ramifications of qualifying for crop insurance. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a substantial yield loss claim that ends up being denied.

For instance, if you’re a grower who no-tills fields in different counties, the rules regarding cover-crop coverage may differ from county to county. Subtle interpretations could void your coverage.

Know The Rules

In the past, Risk Management Agency rules in Ohio did not allow crop insurance coverage for small grains to be harvested when interplanted with another crop. The rule prohibited the use of a grain drill, says Chris Bruynis, Ohio State University Extension educator at Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

If you wanted to seed red clover into standing wheat, the only acceptable method was to broadcast the seed over the top of the wheat. Yet, once the wheat was harvested, you could drill the cover crop without voiding your crop insurance. Or you could graze the clover without losing crop insurance coverage.

Previous insurance policies stated any acreage following another crop (such as a cover crop) that had passed the head or bud stage and/or had been harvested in the same calendar year was not insurable. After harvesting a cover crop for forage, growers couldn’t insure crops such as corn and soybeans with most policies.

Rule Changes For 2011

New rules this year make it easier to insure spring-planted crops after cover crops, says Bruynis. Since weather and field conditions don’t always allow for the timely destruction of a cover crop prior to heading or budding, the new Ohio rules only require that the crop be destroyed before May 15.

Double-Crop Concerns

The same concerns that come up over cover-crop insurability may also have an impact on planting a second crop this year. Examples could include no-tilling soybeans after small grains in Kentucky, no-tilling corn after early peas in Wisconsin or cutting an early-season crop of alfalfa silage before following with no-till corn in Pennsylvania.

In many instances, double-crop soybeans can be insured south of Interstate 70 in Ohio, says Bruynis. But since it’s a county-by-county decision, check with a local crop-insurance agent to determine if your ground is eligible. He says second-crop coverage often depends on the area’s cropping history, weather patterns and whether area double-cropping is widely practiced and successful.

The key to maintaining insurance coverage with cover crops boils down to understanding the subtle interpretations of the rules to avoid inadvertently terminating your crop-insurance coverage. Recognize the fact that the rules may differ from county to county, and get your crop-insurance agent to explain the details.