Cover Crops and Summerfallow
November 28, 2012
The following practice is part of the actuarial documents for certain states and counties in the Topeka Region:
Summerfallow - A production practice utilized to allow soil moisture levels to increase by leaving acreage fallow for a full crop year. To qualify for this practice for the current crop year, the acreage must not have been planted to a crop the preceding crop year and lie fallow for a full crop year. In addition, any plant growth (e.g., weeds, volunteer crop, etc.) must be terminated no later than JUNE 1 and any later plant growth must be controlled by mechanical or chemical means. However, if a crop was planted on acreage qualifying as summerfallow the preceding crop year but was terminated by JUNE 1, and any later growth is controlled by mechanical or chemical means, the acreage will qualify as summerfallow the next crop year. For example, if wheat planted in the fall of 2008 (2009 crop year) qualifies as summerfallow and the wheat is terminated by JUNE 1, 2009, and any later growth is controlled by mechanical or chemical means, wheat planted in the fall of 2009 (2010 crop year) will qualify as summerfallow.
Q1: What is the purpose of the "summerfallow" practice?
A1: The summerfallow (SF) practice is available for non-irrigated wheat in semi-arid parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. Its purpose is to support the insurability of non-irrigated wheat plantings by reducing crop production risks associated with soil moisture depletion during fallow periods.
Q2: What is RMA's definition of a cover crop?
A2: A crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement.
Q3: The summerfallow practice is applicable to wheat in my county. From a crop insurance perspective, what are the consequences if I planted a cover crop during the fallow period that precedes planting wheat?
A3: Planting a cover crop during the fallow period affects the insurability of your next wheat crop. In the above scenario, your next wheat crop would not qualify for the SF practice. Therefore, if continuous cropping is an insurable practice available on the actuarial documents in your county, then your planted wheat can be insured under a continuous cropping practice. However, if a continuous cropping practice is not available, then your planted wheat will not be insurable.
Q4: I harvested a wheat crop in July 2011. On the advice of an agricultural expert, I planted a cover crop the following October. I will terminate it by June 1, 2012, and then plant wheat in October, 2012. Will my October 2012 planted wheat qualify for the summerfallow practice?
A4: No. To qualify for the SF practice, the acreage must not have been planted to a crop the preceding crop year and remain fallow for a full crop year. In this example, your acreage did not remain fallow for the preceding full crop year, and your next wheat crop will not meet the SF criteria.
RMA recommends that you discuss your plans related to cover crops with your crop insurance agent prior to planting the cover crop.
Q5: I mechanically prepared to plant wheat in October 2012 (2013 crop year) on SF acreage. However, due to a severe drought, I could not plant due to absence of moisture. Now, the acreage is exposed, and subject to erosion. If I plant a cover crop for conservation purposes on this acreage, will it still qualify as SF acreage in October 2013 (2014 crop year)?
A5: In this scenario, yes. However, the cover crop cannot be harvested*, and must be terminated by June 1, 2013. Moreover, all growth after June 1 must be controlled mechanically or chemically.
*The cover crop can be grazed.
Q6: I planted a wheat crop in October 2011 (2012 crop year) on SF acreage. It was a drought year, and by early spring, the wheat had failed. I destroyed the failed wheat by June 1, and controlled all later growth by mechanical and chemical means. Will this acreage still qualify as SF acreage in October 2012 (2013 crop year)?
Q6.1: What if I had cut and bailed the failed wheat in early spring. Would the acreage still qualify as SF acreage in October 2012 (2013 crop year)?
A6.1: No. Bailing the cut wheat is considered harvesting. Because the wheat was harvested in spring of 2012, the acreage would not have been fallow for the 2012 crop year. Therefore, in October 2012 (2013 crop year), the acreage would not qualify for the SF practice. Please see Crop Insurance Handbook, Section 12 B (1) (c) for more guidance.
To maintain the SF qualification on the acreage for the 2013 crop year, you could have:
- Terminated the failed wheat by June 1, and controlled all later growth by mechanical or chemical means; or
- Grazed the failed wheat and terminate it by June 1. Then control all growth after June 1 by mechanical or chemical means.
Q7: My acreage is currently in a perennial crop under a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contract. The CRP contract will soon expire, and I plan to start cropping the acreage again. What do I need to do so the acreage will qualify for the summerfallow practice?
A7: In cases of a previously existing perennial crop, including those on previous CRP ground, the perennial crop must be terminated by mechanical or chemical means a full crop year before planting of the crop qualifying for the SF practice. This means the land must have been broken out of CRP by fall and lie fallow for a full crop year. Anything broken out in the spring to be planted in the fall would be considered a continuous cropping practice.
For more information, contact the Topeka Regional Office.