A Cover Crop Explosion
From 2011 to 2015, the adoption of cover crops in Indiana grew from just under 200,000 acres to over 1.1 million acres. Around 11% of Indiana’s crop land was planted to cover crops for the 2016 season (cover crops seeded in fall 2015 for the 2016 cropping season).
Still, much is left to be learned about this important soil health practice.
Cooperators Needed – Economics of Cover Crops
Through a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Foundation, NFP, in collaboration with Purdue University, is developing a comprehensive dataset on the economics of cover cropping systems. The study uses entire field data, rather than data from strip trials. To better assess long-term effects of cover crops, eight years of data will be taken, rather than a single year.
The study was announced earlier in 2016, and the group is still looking for farmers from 37 Indiana counties. “We want farmers that are corn-corn or corn-soybean,” says Dr. Wally Tyner. “So we can compare across farms. We need farms that do cover crops and those that don’t do cover crops. In fact we need more that don’t do cover crops because the cover crop farmers are by in large are interested in participating.”
2016 CTIC-SARE Cover Crop Survey
After cover crops, corn yields rose an average 3.4 bushels per acre, or 1.9 percent, after cover crops, and soybean yields increased 1.5 bushels per acre, or 2.8 percent. Analysis of the survey data revealed that yield increases rose to 8.3 bushels per acre of corn after cover crops had been used for more than four years on a field. In soybeans, the average yield gain increased from 0.1 bushel per acre after a single year in cover crops to 2.4 bushels after four years of cover crops.