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Cover Crop Tool Update Helps Illinois Farmers and Soil Health

A farmer planting soybean plants in a field using a green and yellow John Deere tractor on a sunny day with big fluffy white clouds in a light blue sky.

Illinois is a significant player in the agriculture industry, supplying soybeans to the masses as the leading producer in the U.S. With over 70,000 farms covering 27 million acres – roughly 75% of the state’s total land area – maintaining good soil health is imperative for Illinois farmers. 

A way to do this is by leveraging cover crops during non-growing seasons. This practice has proven to be one of the most-effective farmland management strategies. However, the uncertainty of cover crop performance combined with the added maintenance costs and needs has many farmers stuck weighing the pros and cons.

Motivated to address this issue, the University of Illinois’ Cover Crop team, which includes NCSA Software researchers and programmers, created CoverCrop Analyzer, a free web-based decision support tool designed to help farmers manage cover crops in real-time. Since its launch in 2020, the project remains a work-in-progress, continually improving to integrate new research-based features.

A recent update was released to include improved seasonal weather forecasting and nitrogen-loss-reduction estimates. The tool now allows users to retrieve 30-day weather forecasts based on extensive data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and simulate cover crop growth and soil nitrogen dynamics in the field.

These enhancements continue to help Illinois farmers understand cover crop practices better, leading to more informed decisions on managing lease termination and planting. 

Read the full story from Agrinews here.

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