In 2005 there were not many cover crops being planted in the Midwest. Although annual ryegrass had very positive results, management was seen as somewhat complex and there was limited adoption.
Here it is, almost 9 years later, and the cover crop phenomenon continues to impress us all. It’s hard to calculate exactly, but crop consultant and cover crop advocate Dan Towery estimated that upwards of 2 million acres of cover crops were planted last year in the Midwest.
But here’s the astonishing thing. Key players in cover crop development will meet in Omaha in February, 2014. It’s by invite only. And among the agenda items, according to Towery, is to strategize how to increase the acreage in Midwest cover crops by TEN FOLD in the next decade – to 20,000.000 acres! That sounds like a lot until you understand that there over 170 million acres of corn and soybean acreage in the Midwest, according to the Dept. of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the Univ. of Illinois Urbana – Champaign.
One of Towery’s concerns: even to get to the 20 million acre mark, it may be a challenge to find the seed to plant those acres. Seed farmers in Oregon have increased their acres to match demand of annual ryegrass and other cover crops. But are there enough acres to produce seed for a 10 fold increase? Stay tuned.