If you’re struggling through the rest of this growing season, it’s probably hard to think about getting ready for next year. But if you want to get cover crops in your fields, now’s the time to start ordering.
There are lots of seed sources on the market and the impetus is mostly the farmer to use due diligence when buying. The first step is to confirm the seed is tested and labeled correctly, says Jason Goltz, North Dakota State Seed Department regulatory programs manager.
Each state has its own seed laws, so you’ll want to read up on those before looking into buying. Many states require agricultural seed offered for sale, or sold for planting purposes, to be labeled — including proof of seed testing.
Planting untested cover crop seed can be risky because it may not germinate, or it might be contaminated with weed seed that could result in years of headache and challenges in subsequent years.
No-tillers with organic crops may deal with an even more complicated picture. The National Organic Program stipulates that organically grown seed must be used, when commercially available, according to information from University of Florida Extension. If a grower can demonstrate to the certifying agent that organic seed was not available, then conventionally-grown, untreated seed can be used.
Organic growers should be careful with buying conventional cover crop seed, as often the seed has been treated with prohibited substances. Untreated seed is usually available. Certified organic cover crop seed is becoming increasingly available, but demand is quite high, so the seed can be pricey.
Be careful of cover crop seed that is classified as “GMO-free” sold buy some retailers. Laboratory tests can detect genetically modified seed, according to University of Florida Extension. If you really want GMO-free seed, contact the seed retailer and request documentation.
With advance planning and research, you can be sure that your cover crop seed meets all legal and quality requirements and is a good fit for your operation.