Farmers increasing cover-crop use

The annual report from the CTIC (Conservation Technology Info Center) published recently is more good news for the soil, the planet and the farmers who employ the cover crop technique. (Click here for the full report, including graphs). The news was reported by

Here’s a paragraph outlining the gains being seen in the Midwest.

“Cover crops are growing in popularity by leaps and bounds among farmers. A recent survey of more than 1,200 growers throughout the United States showed cover crops boosted corn yields in 2014 by an average of 3.66 bushels per acre, or 2.1 percent, and soybean yields by 2.19 bushels or 4.2 percent. Last year was the third-consecutive year that yield boosts from cover crops were recorded by the Conservation Technology Information Center, a public-private partnership in West Lafayette, Indiana.”

“The 2015 survey also recorded a fifth year of steady increase in the average number of acres planted to cover crops by survey respondents, at almost 374,000 acres this year. The average number of cover-crop acres per farm in the annual surveys has nearly tripled over the past five years. The average cover-crop acreage per respondent planting a cover crop was 300 acres in 2015.”

From 1200 respondents, the survey determined that cereal rye and annual ryegrass are still the top cover crop seeds used. Here’s the breakout of use reported by farmers:

“Among cover-crop species, cereal grains and grasses are most popular, planted by 84 percent of cover-crop users. Cereal rye accounted for 44 percent of the total cover-crop acres in 2015. Annual ryegrass was a distant second with about half cereal rye’s acreage. Oats was third, covering 17 percent of respondents’ land in 2015. Triticale and winter barley rounded out the top-five cereal grains and grasses.”

It also appears that brassicas, including radish, turnips, rapeseed and canola, continue to gain in use, especially as the practice of seeding four or more cover crop species together in a mix continues to increase.

Interestingly, the top reason farmers cited use of cover crops was because it aids the improvement of soil health. The CTIC had assumed previously that the main reason was because it improved the chances of better production and, thus, profit.