Calling all cover crop users: Feedback needed in online survey

The use of cover crops has increased dramatically over the last five years. Share your cover crop experiences by taking an online survey that’ll gather information such as perceived benefits, cash yields and cost of seed and establishment.

The interest in cover crops is higher than ever. At the National No-Till Conference in Indianapolis, Ind., in January 2013, almost every breakout session had a cover crop presentation. The Midwest Cover Crop Council (MCCC) received the innovative organization award at this meeting, too.

In 2012, many farmers across the Midwest were confronted with drought. Several farmers have mentioned to me they felt their yields were higher under drought conditions because they used cover crops. Due to the increase in cover crop use, the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) has asked me to encourage farmers to fill out this survey designed to help us better understand how farmers are using cover crops and their impact on crop yields. This survey is a collaboration with the Conservation Technology Information Center.

According to Rob Myers, NCR-SARE’s Professional Development Program (PDP) Coordinator and Regional Director for Extension Programs, momentum is building on cover crops, and he believes this survey information will be helpful not only for SARE grant planning, but also for other organizations. Myers also said one of the goals of the survey is to determine the impact of cover crops on cash crop yields under the drought conditions that were so pervasive this past growing season. They are also gathering information about factors influencing cover crop adoption, perceived benefits with cover crops, and the amount farmers are willing to pay for both cover crop seed and establishment.

Survey questions were developed with significant input from the MCCC steering committee, a group of university and USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists that includes some SARE state coordinators. Survey information will be compiled by the Conservation Technology Information Center and made available in spring 2013. 

Farmers who have been growing cover crops can take the survey online. A print version with identical questions to the online version is being distributed at five Midwest farmer conferences this winter. If you know of individuals or groups who would be relevant to receive the online cover crops survey, please forward the link to them. If you desire a paper copy of the survey or would like more information, contact project director Chad Watts at the Conservation Technology Information Center, 3495 Kent Avenue, Suite J100, West Lafayette, IN 47906, (view map), at 765-494-6956.

It is really exciting seeing farmers adopting cover crops on their farms. Michigan State University Extension still has several cover crop meetings that you can go to yet this winter, so please contact Paul Gross at 989-560-1371 or Christina Curell at 231-287-8617 for the locations of these programs.

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