Summer Annual Cover Crop Considerations For Prevented Planting

Matt Ruark (, in collaboration with the Midwest Cover Crop Council (

The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) recommends the use of cover crops for prevented plant acres when feasible and cover crops can be a good way to take advantage of an otherwise unfortunate situation. A full season cover crop is a great opportunity to improve soil health and function. Most cover crops can help to reduce soil erosion and compaction, capture nutrients, suppress weeds, moderate soil moisture, and build soil health, and legume cover crops can provide nitrogen to the subsequent crop. Planting during summer months provides an opportunity to use underused cover crop species as well as use cover crop mixtures, potentially gain benefits of each many different plants. Before making any decisions, it is important to consult with your insurance agent the Farm Service Agency.

Recommendations for summer annual cover crops

Planting cover crops during the summer months provides an opportunity to plant summer annual cover crops, which may not be typically considered. Planting recommendations are described in the table below:

However, it is important to note that sunflower is susceptible to white mold and buckwheat goes to seed quickly. We only recommend buckwheat to those who have worked with it in the past. If planning on planting winter wheat this year, we recommend cowpea as it is a nitrogen fixing legume that will grow well over a short time period. Sunn hemp should also thrive in warm climates, but may be more beneficial in the southern U.S. compared to the upper Midwest.

What about the traditional cover crop species?

It is important to be aware that planting some species out of season is not ideal. Cool season cereals (rye, wheat, and barley) should not be planted in the heat of the summer to ensure good biomass production and (in the case of rye or winter wheat) their ability to overwinter. Oats may be the best commonly used grass cover crop to plant in summer months and would be recommended if sorghum-sudangrass or millet are unavailable. Brassicas such as radish and mustard planted before August will begin to bolt before peak biomass is obtained; this can be controlled with mowing. Thus, only consider these species on compacted or tight soils and if you’re willing to invest in an additional field operation. Many other factors should be considered when planting cover crops such as weed pressure, seed availability, if the cover crop can/could be grazed, and residual herbicide effects. Weed and disease issues need to be heavily considered in the decision-making process. Additional information related to management of cover crops can be found at: and

This article is modified from a Midwest Cover Crop Council Bulletin