Field day will explore seeding cover crops into standing corn – July 16, Orange City

For Release: July 2, 2015

ORANGE CITY, Iowa — Many farmers in Iowa who plant cover crops do so after harvest, or at the end of the growing season when corn or soybeans have started changing color. This timing lets more light reach the cover crop seeds, says agronomist and farmer Jon Kiel, but he adds it comes at a cost: the financial cost of aerially seeding the cover crop, and the risk of poor establishment due to limited daylight hours and heat.

“This is one of the challenges. Cover crops are typically done then because we don’t have sunlight down at the soil earlier,” says Jon, who does agronomic consulting with Verity Farms. He explains that when cover crops are planted later in the season, aerial application is a common way of doing it. “But a lot of times when you aerial-seed, it costs as much to put it on as the seed itself – and it’s not really accurate.”

In response, Jon and three Iowa farmers are trying something different this year: seeding cover crops into their corn much earlier, when it is only 6-8 inches tall. Jon and two of the participating farmers – Kirk Den Herder and Denny Vande Brake – will showcase the results of this effort at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Thursday, July 16, from 5-8 p.m., near Orange City. The event – “Cover Crops in Corn in July: Will They Make It to the Fall?” – is free to attend, and will include a grilled dinner. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please reply to Lauren Zastrow at (515) 232-5661 or by Monday, July 13.

The field day is sponsored by Wallaces Farmer, and will start at the Kirk Den Herder farm, located at 3367 420th St., about 5.5 miles northwest of Orange City.

Guests will learn about the research, which includes three repetitions featuring different cover crop mixes: a six-way mix; a three-way mix used often by the seed dealer Cover Crop Solutions; and what Jon describes as a “hodgepodge mix” of 30-plus cover crop species “to see what will actually grow, and if there are there some species that will grow that we hadn’t considered.” Attendees will get to see what has germinated, and ponder which species might persist beneath the corn canopy into the autumn and following spring. Speakers will include Jon, Kirk, Denny and Colten Catterton of Green Cover Seeds.

“Seeding cover crops into standing corn is pretty new. I haven’t seen anybody actively doing it,” Jon says. “Our thought is that if we seed the cover crop earlier in the season when corn is small, it will sit dormant under the corn canopy. Then, when the corn starts to drop and die back, the cover crop is already established and growing. Our goal is to see how we can get this method to work, and make it fast and cost-effective.”

Kirk Den Herder raises corn and soybeans using no-till and strip-till techniques. He has been farming biologically for 15 years; incorporating cover crops into his operation is his next step. Denny Vande Brake raises non-GMO corn and soybeans, and has been farming biologically for 20-plus years; he is also now introducing cover crops.

Directions to Kirk’s farm from Sioux Center: Take U.S. 75 south out of town for 1 mile to 420th Street. Go 2.5 miles east on 420th Street to the farm, which is on the south side of road (park on the road).

To Kirk’s farm from the south: From the intersection of state Route 10 and U.S. 75, go 3 miles north on U.S. 75 to 420th Street. Go 2.5 miles east on 420th Street; the farm is on the south side (park on the road).

To Denny’s farm from Kirk’s farm: Head 2.5 miles west on 420th to U.S. 75. Go 2 miles south to 440th Street, then three-quarters of a mile west on 440th Street. The farm is on the south side (park on the road).

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 field day season features 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available online at, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2015 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union in partnership with Town and Country Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Crosse Seed; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Pro-Soil Ag Solutions; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.


Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, call visit


Jon Kiel | Verity Farms | (712) 441-0264 (cell); (712) 737-2010 (home) |

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |