At the 2015 Iowa Cover Crops Conference a packed room listened to Butler and Bremer County farmer Rick Juchems talk about cover crops on his farm. He says some benefits are long-term and won't reap economic benefits right away.
A turning point for Juchems came when USDA demonstrated, on his own farm ground, that even a single pass with a field cultivator can significantly upset the organic matter in topsoil.
He says coming to terms with how environmental problems happen in the first place is one obstacle preventing wider adoption of cover crops, "I think it's more that we have to realize people don't like to change. They don't want to admit that they were doing, not that they were wrong, but they have been doing the wrong things to the soil. They have to adjust to, okay we need to improve the soil, but how do we do it? How do we do it without feeling bad that we did something wrong to destroy it to begin with."
When he’s putting in soybeans after corn, Juchems says he’ll plant oats and radishes, but when he’s putting in corn after soybeans, he says he opts for cereal rye.
Cover crops can promote organic matter in soils when a cash crop like corn or soybeans isn't growing, and they can mitigate topsoil erosion. But there’s a price-tag. In some cases seed alone can be around 25 dollars per acre, before the costs of applying it to a field.