Field day at Bent Gate Farm will explore summer cover crop mixes for forage and soil health – Aug. 28, Stanton

For Release: August 14, 2015

STANTON, Iowa — One of the big challenges farmers face when seeking to integrate cover crops into their rotation is finding a time to plant them that won’t interfere with planting or harvesting the main cash crop. For row crop farmer Mark Peterson, one solution is to use a summer cover crop mix.

“It’s called a summer mix because it’s designed around species that like the heat of summer to get started,” says Mark, who farms with his wife, Melanie, at Bent Gate Farm near Stanton. “We drill the cover crop around the first of August with the idea that plants are coming up in the heat of summer. That’s the time of year when our rotation allows us to do it. If we were to drill the cover crop in mid-September, it would be a fall cover crop.”

Mark farms about 500 acres, raising corn, soybeans and small grains using cover crops and no-till practices. He has experimented for several years with different methods for getting cover crops to work on his farm, and will share some of what he has learned at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field he is hosting on Friday, Aug. 28, from 2-6 p.m. The event – “Summer Cover Crop Mix for Forage, Cover and Soil Health” – is free to attend and will include a light supper. Bent Gate Farm is located at 2311 N. Ave., about 2 miles west of Stanton. The field day is sponsored by Green Cover Seed and Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District.

This is Mark’s third year growing rye for seed, and his second year using a multi-species summer cover crop mix. In addition to fixing nitrogen and improving soil health, the mix provides forage for his neighbor’s cattle – an arrangement that benefits both Mark and his neighbor. Mark will discuss the arrangement, as well as knowledge he’s gleaned about working with cover crops – including how he works small grains into the rotation.

Colton Catterton, of Green Cover Seed, will speak about how a cover crop mix was designed to benefit Mark’s operation, and Rick Bednarek, state soil scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will discuss soil health aspects of cover crops. Attendees will also be able to view a soil pit, see the roots growing and observe the impact of a cover crop on soil health.

Mark explains that a summer cover crop mix differs from a fall or spring mix because the species are selected to thrive in summer heat. He likens the idea to how a gardener might choose to plant some plants earlier or later based on when they grow the best.

“You have peas you can put out about any time and they’ll survive the spring, but others you wait and put out until it’s warmer,” he says. “Having the summer cover crop mix gives the farmer more flexibility to get a cover crop put in. There are more growing-degree days left, and the cover crop species in the mix are warm-season crops, for the most part, so there will be growth by the fall.”

Directions: From U.S. 34, turn south into Stanton. Continue south to Frankfort Street. Turn right (west) onto Frankfort (which turns into 225th Street). At the railroad underpass, 225th turns into N Avenue. Proceed south on N Ave. for six-tenths of a mile and look for 2311. Note: Once you leave Stanton, keep driving on the same road; there are no crossroads.

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, visit


Mark Peterson | Bent Gate Farm | (712) 370-4004 |

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