National Cover Crop Survey Report is released

2019-2020 National Cover Crop Survey Report details farmer trends and perspectives on cover crop use.

A cereal rye cover crop aerial seeded into corn
A cereal rye cover crop aerial seeded into corn. Photo by Dean Baas, MSU Extension.

“Despite the crippling rainfall that significantly delayed planting across much of the country in 2019, more than 90% of farmers participating in a national cover crop survey reported that cover crops allowed them to plant earlier or at the same time as non-cover-cropped fields,” state the authors of the 2019-2020 National Cover Crop Survey Report. The Michigan State University Extension cover crops team has received similar reports from farmers around Michigan using cover crops.

The survey includes responses from 1,172 farmers representing every state including Michigan. The survey was conducted by the non-profit Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), with financial support from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). These organizations have worked together on several past national cover crop surveys, with the first survey dating back to the 2012 crop year.

According to Rob Myers, regional director of extension programs for North Central SARE, “Many farmers are finding that cover crops improve the resiliency of their soil, and the longer they use cover crops, the greater the yield increases and cost savings that are reported by producers.”

Many U.S. farmers have turned to cover crops as part of their strategy to improve soil health while reducing input costs and maintaining yields, stated Mike Smith, who managed the national survey for CTIC. Survey participants averaged 465 acres in cover crops in 2019, an increase of 38% in four years. The USDA Census of Agriculture found a 50% increase in cover crop acreage over the five-year period between 2012 and 2017.

“We are pleased to see farmers appreciate the expertise of cover crop seed companies with 46% saying they buy from them and another 42% buying from retailers,” said Jane DeMarchi, vice president of Government & Regulatory Affairs for ASTA. “Professionally produced cover crop seed is grown for seed from the start and has been selected, harvested, cleaned and tested for performance. The study shows farmers are using a range of cover crop seed and mixes to address their individual needs with 46% paying $15 or under per acre.”

Among the 1,172 farmers who provided responses in the 2019-2020 National Cover Crop Survey, 81% were commodity producers (corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, etc.) and 19% categorized themselves as horticultural producers.

View the full 2019-2020 National Cover Crops Survey Report

Cover crop information and resources are available at the websites for MSU Extension Cover Crops and the Midwest Cover Crops Council. Sustainable agriculture information and resources are available at the website for North Central Region SARE. For more information on cover crops or SARE, contact Dean Baas.

This work is supported by the McKnight Foundation, the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) and the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program 2017-70006-27175 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s).

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