When Green Cover Seed, headquartered in Bladen, Nebraska, identified the need for a secondary location to serve Southeast Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, the company undoubtedly did not expect to be making the move in the midst of a pandemic. But, when a 54,000 square foot warehouse in Iola, Kansas came up for sale, the company was ready to make a change. This building along with the purchase of the cover crop seed division of Natural Ag Solutions in Moran, set the stage for a new enterprise.

“We purchased the new location in April and began doing small amounts of business until August when we really started moving some volume of material,” said Green Cover Seed agronomist Dale Strickler. “We had a previous joint venture with Natural Ag Solutions in Moran so there was a natural tie to the area where we bought and sold from each other.”Southeast Kansas native and Natural Ag Solutions salesman Zack Louk became the head salesman for Green Cover Seed’s Iola location and Caleb Berns moved down from Green Cover Seed’s Nebraska location to be the site manager.

The new location in Iola also matched a good opportunity to fill the growing demand for cover crop mixes in the area, one that has grown tremendously in the last several years.

“We have abundant rainfall and a very long growing season here relative to what the main Green Cover Seed location in Nebraska has,” Strickler said. “There are soils here that are typically very heavy clay that don’t have good water infiltration rates.”

Strickler said poor water infiltration and low aggregate stability can cause flooding, and leave crops susceptible to drought — both problems cover crops can help manage.

“I grew up in the area and back then cover cropping was called green manure, and it was a common practice,” Strickler said. “My grandfather used it primarily as a source of nitrogen fertility but also to build organic matter and as pasture on occasion.”

Over time, Strickler said the process of cover cropping has become a more refined science, something Green Cover Seed does with precision.

“We didn’t realize at the time that when we tilled those cover crops under, we were losing a good portion of the soil structure and mulch benefits they provided,” Strickler said. “When people started pairing the green manure concept with no-till then the magic really started to happen.”

You will get as much soil improvement combining no-till and cover crops together in one year, as you will in seven with either practice or model,” Strickler said.

Green Cover Seed’s new Iola location is in the process of a building remodel and interior grow room construction that could make cover crop selection simpler for agricultural producers, regardless of their time schedule or the weather.

“We decided to take our cover crop plots indoors, so we can provide examples for customers year round,” Strickler said. “It will give us greater flexibility, so we can host educational days for local 4-H and FFA programs or have plot tours at more convenient times, like in the evenings or over the winter.”

Strickler said the new grow room inside Green Cover Seed’s warehouse will be set up with the right conditions to grow a wide variety of cover crop mixes year round, so any visitors to the center can experience cover crops first hand, and well ahead of growing season.

“Traditionally we would grow test plots of cover crops and show them off in August or September,” Strickler said. “But, that means we could show you the crops and then it would be almost a year before you could plant them yourself or you might have to plant sight unseen.”

The first opportunity for the public to experience the new, updated Green Cover Seed location will be during a two-day educational event held on site March 5 and 6. The event will feature experts on cover crop usage and no-till farming, an indoor cover crop plot tour and more.