Corn prices having fallen from $8/bu to about $3.50 has impacted farmers use of cover crops, at least some of them, according to Nick Bowers, a grass seed grower in Oregon (http://kbseedsolutions.com/)
Those new to cover crops are the ones taking a second look, he said. Considering all the inputs one must prioritize, cover crop seed might not make the list after fuel, fertilizer and pesticides.
Talking to hundreds of farmers at Midwest farm shows and field days, Bower finds that those who have been planting acreage with cover crops the past five years are not deterred by the drop in corn prices. “They’ve seen the value in cover cropping: improved soil structure and deeper moisture levels, the reduction of nitrogen inputs and the yield bumps they get with corn and beans,” Bowers said.
It takes three to five years planting annual ryegrass or other cover crops to begin to see a consistent benefit that translates into higher yield and profits.
Here’s a recent report from the Conservation Tillage Information Center (CTIC) about the value of cover crops, based on interviews with more than 3000 Midwest farmers. (The specific yield differences are discussed in pages 23 – 27).