Cover crops take off, but not everybody signs on

Cover crops take off, but not everybody signs on

Not everyone is convinced that benefits of cover crops are worth the cost.

Cover crops weren't on the agenda at a recent Indiana field day. Yet the conversation between stops turned to the increase in cover crop acreage and possible benefits of cover crops.

Related: Soil Health Partnership plans summer cover crop workshops

The conversation didn't go as you might imagine. One individual railed against cover crops, contending that they don't provide consistent benefits as many people say they do. His argument was that especially with lower crop prices than a couple years ago, cover crops wouldn't pay their way.

Part of the million: Jeremy Henry, Connersville, did his part to reach a million acres of cover. This cover crop was planted in mid-September after an early corn harvest.

Barry Fisher, agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, wasn't present, but anyone who knows him understands there would have been fireworks if he was! And that's a compliment to Barry. He believes in the value of cover crops because he has seen them work and help improve soil conditions in a variety of ways.

To be fair, the person on the negative side of the conversation hails from an area where land is primarily flat. That doesn't mean cover crops wouldn't help there, but it does mean they've been slower to take off in counties where soils are level and already productive.  

Results of a recent transect study indicate that a large number of farmers saw the value in cover crops and planted them last fall. The transect results indicated one million acres of cover crops were planted in Indiana in the fall of 2014.

Related: Using cover crops to save soil +5 resources for wet fields

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture, NRCS, soil and water conservation districts and Extension participated in the study. It's a systematic drive through the county, where team members check the cover at a random location selected for them for their drive through a certain part of the county.

GPS technology was used to prepare the instructions needed for the survey.

To be fair the survey results note that one million acres of living cover also included cereal grains. It becomes difficult to distinguish what is a cover crop and what is there as a crop, especially depending upon when the survey is done. A sizable number or acres are seeded to cereal rye each year. It's a small grain, but it's being grown almost exclusively as a cover crop.

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