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NRCS cover crop initiative application deadline April 3rd

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering a special initiative through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The Cover Crop Initiative is designed to help increase soil quality and provide an additional source for grazing among other benefits.

The deadline for submitting an application for Fiscal Year 2009 funding consideration is Friday, April 3, 2009. Any applications received after this deadline will be considered for Fiscal Year 2010 funding.

"The intent of this cover crop initiative is to encourage producers to be proactive in improving their soil quality," said Rick Bednarek, NRCS Soil Quality Specialist. Improving soil quality is just one of the benefits producers may see from planting a cover crop says Bednarek. Cover crops provide an opportunity for producers to extend the grazing season and provide a rest period for pasture and rangeland. A cover crop planted after small grain harvest can provide high quality forage late into the fall. In addition to late season forage, it also can provide early canopy and residue cycling characteristics. And, other cover crop mixtures provide a substantial amount of forage dry matter production.

Cover crops can help improve soil quality by reducing or breaking up compaction, increasing infiltration, reducing soil erosion, enhancing nutrient and residue cycling, providing nitrogen for the next crop, suppressing weed seed germination, reducing salinity, managing moisture, and increasing soil biology.

Under the cover crop initiative, a one-time payment will be $20 per acre with a minimum enrollment of 25 acres and a maximum of 160 acres. The cover crops must be planted in the summer months of 2009. All applications will be ranked with the Cover Crop Initiative Ranking. Enrollment is state-wide.

"Fall grazing of forage will be allowed; however the grazing period will be minimal to ensure at least a five-inch stubble height remains," said Bednarek. "Through the ranking process, priority will be given to applications where the cover crop mixture including a legume will be no-tilled into standing wheat stubble, and the following annual crop will be no-tilled into the undisturbed cover crop residue."

Applications or additional information about the cover crop initiative is available from your local USDA Service Center. For more information, go to http://www.sd. nrcs.usda.gov/technical/CoverCrops.html.