Publication Explores Economics of Cover Crops for Row Crop Farmers

Cover Crop Economics, a new report published by the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, addresses the kinds of economic returns that can be expected from cover crops, both under various management scenarios and as cover crops improve soil health over time. The report finds that planting a cover crop as a livestock grazing opportunity is one of the fastest avenues to profitability. Other management situations can speed up positive returns from cover crops, as well, such as when a farmer is dealing with compacted soils or is transitioning to no-till, or when cover crops are contributing to a commodity crop’s nutrient needs. Also, the report notes that receiving federal or state incentive payments while transitioning to cover crop use can make a major contribution to a quick economic return. The report’s conclusions are based on an analysis of five years of data from the National Cover Crop Survey, conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and SARE in the 2012 through 2016 growing seasons.