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Keep those unplanted acres intact

Jeff Caldwell 06/18/2013 @ 2:48pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

If you've got corn and soybean acres you won't be able to get planted because you simply couldn't get into the field, you have the option to make ends meet in the crop insurance prevented-planting provision. If you file prevented planting, you have a few options for what to do with that land that won't be raising corn or soybeans this year.

"Corn producers with unplanted acres have three choices: plant corn as soon as possible with a reduced guarantee, shift to soybeans with full insurance coverage, or apply for prevented planting," says Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist Steve Johnson. "Prevented-planting acres are insured at 60% of their original guarantee. Those acres may have a cover crop established on them or may be left idle (black dirt)."

Though you're not locked into doing so, it's a good idea to at least do something to make sure that land is maintained until the next time the planter rolls. The best way to do that, says Iowa agriculture secretary Bill Northey, is to use what's essentially a fallow year as a way to concentrate on conservation.

"This has been the wettest spring on record, and as a result a significant part of our state’s corn and soybean crops have not yet been planted," Northey says. "It is critically important that farmers work with their crop insurance agent to understand all their planting options. If a farmer does use prevented planting I encourage using a cover crop, building conservation practices or, better yet doing both on their impacted land this year."

The first practice to consider to keep your land in good shape if it can't raise corn or soybeans is planting a cover crop. Doing so will do a lot to prevent soil erosion and keep nutrients tied up in the soil and out of adjacent waterways, Northey says.

Bu, don't limit your conservation practices to cover crops. Though they're the the best general way to keep your soil and nutrients intact, practices like terracing and adding grass waterways or sediment basins can also keep your land stable heading into next year.

Northey advises farmers interested in any practices like these to contact their local USDA Service Center or Natural Resources Conservation Service office.

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