Talk to any farmer and they will tell you that cover crops are a cornerstone of sustainable agriculture. There are several choices and each one has a role in the cropping rotations. So, any tool to help us understand cover crops is valuable.
Of particular interest to us is the seeding dates for the our climate here in Potter County, Pennsylvania. We found an online tool, called The Cover Crop Decision Tool that we thought was worth telling you about. The Cover Crop Decision Tool consolidates cover crop information by state to help farmers make cover crop selections at the county level. There is one problem though, it does not include Pennsylvania.
To overcome this, we went to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and selected Pennsylvania and took a close look at Potter County. We noticed that our county is mostly zone 5b with some 5a areas. Now, here’s the trick. We needed to find a county in one of the states that are included in The Cover Crop Decision Tool that has similar hardiness zones as our Potter County. To do this, we went back to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, but this time we selected Michigan. We did this because we noticed that Michigan’s lower peninsula seemed to us to have a similar distribution of Hardiness Zones (Zones 6a through 5a) as Pennsylvania. With that done, we looked at Michigan and noted that its central counties of Mecosta or Isabella seemed to match our Potter County Hardiness zones rather well.
So, now we can use the tool. To use the The Cover Crop Decision Tool, we select Mecosta county in Michigan in the drop down boxes and use the tool to help us with the selection of cover crops and determine our seeding dates.
Try it out and see what you think! Let us know if you find this be to a handy tool. Maybe, you have found something better. If so, we are interested in knowing about it.