Of more than 2000 farmers who responded to a Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), 88% say they use cover crops. Of that group, about 65% say they use cover crop mixes that include annual ryegrass. Click here to see the report online.
Reading the whole report is worth the effort, because it has tons of good information about the growing use of cover crops. Here are a few highlights.
- Modest yield gains were again seen: 1.3% in corn, 3.8% in soybeans. For the first time, data was collected about the yield gain in wheat, when cover crops were used. The bump was 2.8%.
- The average acreage planted in cover crops increased, too, topping 400 acres. Respondents said they planned to increase that size to more than 450 acres next year, an increase of about 17%.
- Most farmers, in fact 75% of those answering the survey, said they planted their cover crop seed personally. The same number also said that they planted in the fall, after harvest.
- A number to watch: 27% said they “interseeded” in 2016, planting cover crop into standing corn in the late spring, in conjunction with their side-dress or later.
- Another relatively new practice: planting crops into spring annual ryegrass and other cover crops, soon to be terminated. Almost 40% said they tried the practice last year and report that it helps control weeds as well as manage soil moisture
- Cover crop mixes were rated the highest as a way to control weeds
The main reasons farmers claimed for using cover crops: soil health and improving yield consistency. Most said cover crops helped even from the first year of use.
Non-users (12% of survey respondents) said they were interested in cover crops but wary about the cost and time to plant them, worried about the crops becoming a weed problem, and thinking it might not pencil out economically. They did say, however, that they’re interested in tracking the use of cover crops and learning more about them, and would probably begin the practice if the cost share programs continue.
Future blogs on this site will go into more detail about some of these points mentioned above.