By: Practical Farmers of Iowa
September 2021

PFI strategic initiatives director Sarah Carlson

September is the start of the cover cropping season in Iowa, and more and more farmers are looking to improve weed control, access cattle feed and improve their soil health by using this 4R Plus practice. It used to be more difficult for farmers to find a local cover crop seed dealer or application business, but a new app helps them get started.

With help from the new Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) cover crop app, farmers can easily locate cover crop seed, services and suppliers in time for fall 2021 planting decisions. The app, Find Cover Crops, is free to download and use and is available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store; a desktop version is also available.

“Whether farmers are looking to source cover crop seed or hire someone to seed their cover crop, the Find Cover Crops app can help,” said Rebecca Clay, PFI’s strategic initiatives agronomy coordinator. “Not everyone has the equipment or supplies to seed cover crops themselves – and harvest time gets busy quickly. Having an app that connects farmers instantly to services near them can make a big difference to ensuring they get their cover crop planted during that busy time.”

The Find Cover Crops app lets users:

Find Cover Crop app viewed on a phone screen
  • Search by location or GPS for at least 51 cover crop seed dealers, seed cleaning services and custom spraying services located across Iowa as well as locations in surrounding states
  • Request aerial application, custom drilling and high-clearance seeding services right from their phones, or from their computer
  • Access advice and management recommendations – including embedded how-to videos – for seeding, grazing and terminating cover crops
  • Precisely identify the boundaries of fields to be cover cropped using the app’s “Find My Field” feature, which lets users search for, mark and send images of a field to businesses or to PFI for cost-share purposes

“Parcel data from USDA has been incorporated for all fields in Iowa and neighboring states – Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska – so that a user can zoom to their field and find its boundaries,” said Michael Borucke, data analyst for PFI who worked with the developer on the app.

“The app allows for further modification of the field boundaries to let the cover crop business know which part of the field should be planted to cover crops,” added Borucke.

A Modern Tool for a Burgeoning Crop

The new Find Cover Crops app enters the market at a time when mobile phones have become essential tools for farmers – and when more farmers are integrating cover crops into their farming systems.

The Find Cover Crops app is one of the first custom-designed apps dedicated to connecting farmers to cover crop services – and among the first to offer geo-location search capacity, real-time USDA parcel data and in-app service request functionality.

“We designed this app based on what farmers have told us are their biggest questions and challenges with cover crops,” said Sarah Carlson, PFI’s strategic initiatives director. “The Find Cover Crops app will empower farmers with a new 21st century tool that can simplify cover crop planning and management and should make it easier for farmers new to cover crops to access the many benefits of cover crops.”

Growing cover crop after cash crop is harvested
The growing cover crop after the cash crop is harvested provides multiple soil health benefits.

Dan Bahe, of Stanley, Iowa, operates Bahe Cover Crops, which offers cover crop drilling, several types of cover crop seed and conservation mixes (such as for Conservation Reserve Program land). He is also one of the service providers listed in the app.

“Harvest time is a super busy time of the year, so people can’t always make the time to seed cover crops themselves,” said Bahe. “We pride ourselves on being timely and doing a quality job. I’m excited to have a medium to connect farmers to cover crop businesses and sound advice.”

PFI worked with North Carolina-based Onyx Ocean Technologies, a Black-woman-owned mobile app and web design company, to develop the app, which is funded by a three-year Gulf of Mexico Division Farmer to Farmer grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

To have your cover crop business added to the app, email Michael Borucke.