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When Do Cover Crops Pay? New SARE Report Addresses the Question

Farmers around the country are planting cover crops on millions of acres to protect and improve the soil, and the more that farmers use cover crops, the more they value this conservation practice. Cover Crop Economics, a new report published by the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, looks at the economics of cover crops to help farmers answer that big question: "When do cover crops pay?"

"The key," says North Dakota farmer Justin Zahradka, who has been planting cover crops since 2011, is to “look at cover crops as an investment rather than a cost.”

Based primarily on yield and economic data gathered through five years of national cover crop surveys, the report addresses the 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 is timely, as the latest Census of Agriculture revealed that national cover crop acreage increased by 50 percent from 2012 to 2017. It’s also timely due to the interest in cover crops for planting on fields that were flooded or otherwise unplanted this spring. The report finds that planting a cover crop as a livestock grazing opportunity is one of the fastest avenues to profitability.

Read more at Cover Crop Economics

Want to read about more impacts like this? Check out Fresh from the Field, a weekly bulletin showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees funded by NIFA.

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products;
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment;
Agriculture economics and rural communities
U.S. States and Territories
North Dakota
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