Cover Cropping Increases to 7.2% in Midwest

New University of Illinois research using satellite-based remote sensing efforts shows that cover crop adoption reached 7.2% of the Midwest in 2021, up from just 1.8% a decade prior. Researchers tracked cover crop use across 140 million acres of cropland over 20 years, using machine learning algorithms that can distinguish cover crops from other vegetation. They found that growth in cover crop use correlated with increases in state and federal incentive programs. States that offered greater incentives showed higher cover crop adoption than neighboring states. One of the co-authors explained why cover crops haven’t enjoyed a higher adoption rate: “A big part of the problem is that adding cover crops to the rotation is a systems change for the farmer and the fields. It adds cost, risk, and management challenges, but important learning is happening among innovators and farmers are gaining valuable experience.”