Practical Farmers of Iowa encourages farmers thinking of growing small grains in 2017 to consider applying for financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Practice 328: Extended Crop Rotations and practice 340: Cover Crops are both covered under EQIP. This funding could make it profitable for farmers to diversify their corn-soybean acres with oats and red clover, or wheat followed by a diverse cover crop mix.
Applications for EQIP funding, which is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, are accepted on a rolling basis. However, farmers who want to plant a small grain next spring must apply by Oct. 21, which is the cutoff date NRCS has set to rank applications that would be slated to receive EQIP funds at the start of 2017. The next cutoff date for new EQIP applications is March 17, 2017. To apply for EQIP or find more information, farmers should contact their local NRCS office.
Extended crop rotations break pest cycles, reduce fertilizer costs for a following year’s corn crop and improve weed control for tough spots in the field. Side benefits include improved water quality and soil health. Sarah Carlson, Midwest cover crops research coordinator with Practical Farmers, says farmers who have started with a cereal rye cover crop and want to try something new might want to consider growing oats as a cash crop.
“The summer oats harvest then allows them to plant a 12-way mix, which is a cover crop mix featuring 12 species specifically designed to add organic matter, reduce compaction, improve water infiltration and add to soil fertility.”
Typically, applying for just the extended crop rotation practice does not provide enough financial assistance to interest farmers,” she says. “But by bundling that with the cover crop practice, farmers will receive enough to help get them over the initial start-up costs of adding this diversity to the landscape.”
After applying for financial assistance, farmers are encouraged to join Practical Farmers’ newly launched Small Grains in the Corn Belt project. Last year, with the aid of industry experts, seven farmers learned ways to improve oat production and where to access markets for their harvested grains. To learn more about Practical Farmers’ Small Grains in the Corn Belt project, contact Sarah Carlson at (515) 232-5661 or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program is a voluntary conservation program that provides agricultural producers with financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices.