Survey shows benefits of cover crops

September 16, 2017

Following the use of cover crops, farmers reported increased yields of corn, soybeans and wheat, and improvement in the control of herbicide-resistant weeds, according to a nationwide survey.

 

In addition, the survey of 2,012 farmers showed acreage planted in cover crops has nearly doubled over the past five years. Survey participants—88% of whom use cover crops—reported that after cover crops:

 

• Corn yields increased an average of 2.3 bushels per acre, or 1.3 percent;

 

• Soybean yields increased 2.1 bushels per acre, or 3.8 percent;

 

• Wheat yields increased 1.9 bushels per acre, or 2.8 percent.

 

This marks the fifth consecutive year in which the survey reported yield increases in corn and soybeans following cover crops. It is the first year the survey team was able to calculate the impact of cover crops on wheat yields.

 

The poll was conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) with help from Purdue University and funding support from USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA).

 

“In addition to yield increases, farmers reported other benefits to cover crops, ranging from improved soil health to better control of herbicide-resistant weeds,” notes Rob Myers, Regional Director of Extension Programs for North Central SARE at the University of Missouri. “For instance, 85 percent of the farmers who used cover crops said they have seen improvements in soil health. That reflects long-term thinking and a growing understanding of the enduring value that cover crops deliver.”

 

Myers adds that 69 percent of the respondents said cover crops always or sometimes improved control of herbicide-resistant weeds. That is a significant number, he notes, as a majority of respondents—59 percent—reported having herbicide-resistant weeds in at least some of their fields.

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