Source: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
Area soil conservation officials are looking for participants for a new cover crop incentive program, which would provide $750 a year in exchange for feedback and information about how the cover crops worked on their land.
The 2010-2012 Cover Crop Demonstration Plot North Central Region-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Incentive will provide funding for 20 acres of land per producer for up to three years, said Shawn Krance, project manager for the Southwest North Dakota Soil Health Demonstration Project.
Producers must follow incentive guidelines, which include a cover crop “cocktail” consisting of a minimum of three species, with at least 10 percent of each species in the mixture, unless more than 10 species are used.
Cover crop cocktail mixes can include peas, lentils, mustard, sweetclover, safflowers and chickpeas, among others.
The project is funded through grants and sponsorship and is not federally funded, Krance said.
“As part of an outreach idea, we are allowed to pay producers incentives for planting cover crops mixtures,” Krance said during an informational meeting held Wednesday at the Eagle’s Club in Dickinson.
A cover crop is any annual, biennial, or perennial plant grown to improve any number of conditions associated with sustainable agriculture. Cover crops can be used to improve soil fertility and quality, water management, infiltration rates, diversity, soil organic matter, grazing forage, wildlife habitat and better control of weeds, pests, diseases and erosion, according to Western and Central Stark and Dunn counties soil conservation districts information.
“There has been some research done that says as you increase soil microbial activity you increase those biological services in the soil,” Krance said.
Producers in Stark, Billings and Dunn counties are eligible to sign up for the program.
Wayne Fisher, a Dickinson-area farmer, said he is considering signing up for the program. He’s used cover crops for a few years under a different program, which included radishes, cowpeas, millet and soybeans.
“I hope to add some organic matter to the soil and maybe not have to use as much fertilizer,” Fisher said.
The use of cover crops is gaining in popularity, Krance said.
“Hopefully producers will see the benefits of planting cover crops in their management system,” Krance said.
Applications for the program will be taken through April 16 and ranked. Eligible applications received after April 16 will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Krance said anyone who’s interested or who would like more information on program specifications can contact the Western Soil Conservation District at 701-225-3811 ext. 3 or the Dunn County Soil Conservation District at 701-764-5646 ext. 3.
The Southwest ND Soil Health Demonstration is NCR-SARE Research and Education project LNC09-312