Note: Thefollowing information is from the USDA Risk Management Agency. The fact sheetcan be seen at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1167871.pdf)

To ensure that USDApolicies are coordinated and up to date with evolving cover crop practices, theadministrators of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), RiskManagement Agency (RMA) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) organized an interagencyworkgroup to develop consistent, simple and flexible policy across the threeagencies. National and local experts, along with multiple stakeholders, wereinvolved in the process. Research literature, plant growth and soil hydrologymodels, and input from national/local experts in cover crop management providedthe basis for developing cover crop termination guidelines to achieve theirconservation benefits while minimizing risk of reducing yield to the followingcrop due to soil water use.

The guidelines apply tonon-irrigated cropland, including systems that contain a fallow period.Termination of cover crops utilized in an irrigated cropping system is notrestricted to a given cover crop termination zone. Cover Crops in irrigatedcropping systems should be terminated based on the crop system and conservationpurpose, but before the planted crop emerges.

 NRCS Cover CropTermination Guidelines for Management Zones

Zone 1:

For Late Spring to Fall Seeded Crops -Terminate cover crops 35 days or earlier prior to planting the crop.

For Early Spring Seeded Crops -Terminate cover crops as soon as practical prior to planting the crop.(Additional Cover Crop Termination Considerations 4 and 8)

RMA Designated Summer FallowPractice:

•        For summer seeded orfall seeded crops terminate the cover crop at least 90 days prior to planting.

•        For early springseeded crops terminate the cover crop either in late fall or as early aspossible in the spring prior to planting.

Zone 2:

For Late Spring to Fall Seeded Crops -Terminate cover crops 15 days or earlier prior to planting the crop.

For Early Spring Seeded Crops -Terminate cover crops as soon as practical prior to planting the crop.(Additional Cover Crop Termination Considerations 4 and 8)

RMA Designated Summer FallowPractice:

•        For summer seeded orfall seeded crops terminate the cover crop at least 90 days prior to planting.

•        For early springseeded crops terminate the cover crop either in late fall or as early aspossible in the spring prior to planting.

Zone 3:

Terminate cover crop at orbefore planting the crop.

RMA Designated Summer FallowPractice:

* For summer seeded or fallseeded crops terminate the cover crop at least 90 days prior to planting.

* For early spring seededcrops terminate the cover crop either in late fall or as early as possible inthe spring prior to planting.

Zone 4:

Terminate cover crop at orwithin 5 days after planting, but before crop emergence.

 

Additional cover crop terminationconsiderations

1. If the season is drierthan normal nearing cover crop termination time, consider an earliertermination to conserve soil moisture.

2. If the spring season iswetter than normal at cover crop termination time, consider a later terminationto use excess soil moisture and improve seedbed condition.

3. If the cover crop ispart of a no-till system, termination can be delayed up to 7 days from theabove termination period guideline, but terminated prior to crop emergence forall zones and systems.

4. In zones 1 and 2, fall seeded cover crops willhave limited growth in the spring prior to "early" spring seeded crops (e.g.,spring wheat, sugar beets, corn), and therefore the cover crop may beterminated at or just prior to planting.

5. Cover crop terminationzones 1 and 2, in the largely mountainous regions in the Western U.S. (fromMontana south to New Mexico and west to California), were refined by NRCS andother local university experts to identify proper cover crop management due towide variability in climate and cropping systems in those areas.

6. Early vs. LaterSpring Seeded Crops - Crops planted as early as possible after the springthaw are considered early spring crops (e.g., spring wheat, spring barley,sugar beets, corn). Later spring crops include such crops as dry beans andsoybeans.

7. New Technology -Where new technology has at least three years of satisfactory performance(achieves historical yield) based on farm records and the written approval oftwo "agricultural experts" as defined by RMA, the cover crop may be terminatedcloser to planting, if recommended by the experts.

8. Cover Crop Grazing orForage Harvest - In all areas, except for the RMA summer fallow practicein Zones 1, 2 and 3, cover crops may be grazed or harvested as hay orsilage as long as the planned amount of biomass is available at the time oftermination to meet the conservation purpose. For the RMA designated summerfallow practice, cover crops should not be hayed or grazed. A cover cropharvested for grain or seed will not be considered to have been planted forconservation purposes, and will be considered a "crop".

9. Herbaceous WindBarriers - There are specific cropping situations when seasonal cover isneeded to protect young seedlings from wind erosion abrasion. The typical seasonalcovers may include such crops as wheat, rye, or oats that are planted in rows,e.g., 20 feet apart (single or double row of small grain). These seasonalcovers fall under the NRCS Conservation Practice Code 603 - Herbaceous WindBarriers. These barriers are not considered cover crops.

10. Short Season CoverCrops - There are specific cropping situations where the producer willplant the intended crop, plus a short term seasonal cover crop (NRCSConservation Practice Code 340 - Cover Crop) prior to or at the same timeas planting the main or insured crop. In this case the seasonal cover emergesfirst and provides short term wind erosion protection until the main cropbecomes established crops are terminated by cultivation, frost /winterkill, orherbicides once the main crop is established. The seasonal covers used for thepurpose of early crop establishment must be appropriate species for the areaand the planned purpose.

11. Early Crop Planting- When earlier than normal planting occurs due to favorable weather or soilconditions, cover crop termination will naturally occur closer to planting. Forexample, in zone 2, if planting occurs 2 weeks earlier than normal, the covercrop termination period may be 2 weeks closer to planting.

12. Multiple Climates Within a County -Some counties may have multiple climate areas. In these situations, producersmay request a different cover crop termination zone management or timeframe dueto unique geographical and topographical features that reflect a different climate.Producers should contact either Extension or the local NRCS for managementguidance. If the guidance includes practices otherthan indicated by the zones in this document, the producer must inform FSA andtheir crop insurance agent, as appropriate, and provide copies of therecommended management practice(s).

Definitions:

1. Over-Seeding/Interseeding- Both terms can be defined as planting one or more cover crop species intoan existing or established crop. Common uses that involve over-seeding or interseedinginclude: (1) over-seeding a grass and/ or legume cover crop into an existingstand of small grain at an appropriate time for the cover and germination, or(2) seeding a cover crop into an existing crop of corn or soybeans about thetime of physiological maturity (leaves beginning to yellow) to get the covercrop started a few weeks earlier. Neither of these examples of over- seeding/interseeding would interfere with harvest of the main crop.

2. Interplanted -This involves multiple crop species grown together, with no distinct rowpattern and does not permit separate agronomic maintenance or management. ForRMA purposes, this means if a cover crop and cash crop are planted in a waythat does not permit separate agronomic maintenance or management, then RMAwill not insure the cash crop. This would also apply to cover crops ifinterplanted into the main crop and the cover crop interfered with theagronomic management and harvest of the main crop.

3. Relay Cropping -The practice of interseeding a second crop into the first crop well before itis harvested. The relay cropping strategy is used to enable production of asecond crop in areas where time seeding the second crop following harvest ofthe first is considered inadequate for double cropping. This is not considereda cover cropping practice, but a method of double cropping and may fall underthe RMA 1st / 2nd crop rules.

4. Double-Cropping -RMA and NRCS term: Harvesting at least 2 crops from the same land in the sameyear. This does not include cover crops.

5. Cover Crop -Crops including grasses, legumes and forbs for seasonal cover and otherconservation purposes. A cover crop managed and terminated according to theseguidelines is not considered a "crop".

6. Good Farming Practice- RMA term - The production methods utilized to produce the insured cropand allow it to make normal progress toward maturity and produce at least theyield used to determine the for late planted acreage, which are: (1) forconventional or sustainable farming practices, those generally recognized byagricultural experts for the area; or (2) for organic farming practices, thosegenerally recognized by organic agricultural experts for the area or containedin the organic plan.

7. Late Planting Period -RMA term - The period of time following the date considered as the finalplanting date for an insured crop. The late planting period may vary from aweek up to a few weeks.

8. Prevented Planting -RMA term - Failure to plant the insured crop by the final planting datedesignated in the Special Provisions for the insured crop in the county, orwithin any applicable late planting period, due to an insured cause of lossthat is general to the surrounding area and that prevents other producers fromplanting acreage with similar characteristics.

9. Continuous Cropping - RMA Term - A practice ofgrowing crops annually in a rainfall limited area (where summer fallow is alsoa practice).

 

NRCS Cover Crop Termination Guidelines, December 2013
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1167871.pdf

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