For Cover Crop Creativity, the Best is Yet to Come

Trial and error trumps comfort zone complacence in strip-tiller Trent Sanderson’s perpetual pursuit of cover cropping innovation.

Pictured Above: DEEP-SEEDED ANALYSIS. Experimenting with a series of cover crop mixes and seeding methods, Illinois farmer Trent Sanderson tracks successes and failures to fine-tune his cover cropping system

The greatest of growing seasons has little affect on Trent Sanderson’s approach to cover crops across his family’s 2,000-acre corn, soybean and wheat operation in Clare, Ill. In his mind, more can always be done to maximize the value of every field, whether it’s a new seed variety, application method or frugal machinery investments. 

Erosion concerns contributed to Sanderson’s adoption of strip-till in 2007, along with the benefits of an improved seedbed and organic matter provided by untilled crop residue. After experiencing initial improvements to soil health, he doubled down with implementing cover crop practices in 2012. 

Experimenting with a series of seed mixes including cereal rye, radishes and red clover, along with different seeding strategies to minimize seasonal risk, Sanderson has tracked the tendencies of his fields.

Ultimately, he says there’s no substitute to a trial-and-error approach for farmers in search of the best personal methods with cover cropping success. 

“I get so many questions on what our results are from people that haven’t tried anything at all,” Sanderson says. “Get your hands dirty and dig up some roots to understand what’s going on.”

Resourceful Relevance

From the onset, Sanderson’s mentality for cover cropping was to utilize all of his pre-existing equipment to get the job done. Looking to implement an intensive cover crop mix for his wheat acres, he…

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James DeGraff

James DeGraff is an Editorial Assistant for Strip-Till Farmer. A senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, James is pursuing a degree in Journalism as well as Strategic Communication. Contact: jdegraff@lessitermedia.com

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