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David Sparks Ph.d Cover Crop Benefits
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Idaho Ag Today
Date: July 18, 2019

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The Agriculture Department's been trying to convince row crop producers to use cover crops for years to improve soil health, cut down on erosion, possibly boost yields. Adoption rates have gone up but very slowly. But this year supporters of cover crops may find some new converts to the idea because so many growers have not been able to plant their main crops. Under Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says there are a lot of acres going into the prevented planting category: “Could easily exceed 10 million acres.” Many producers who were prevented from planting will get some compensation from their crop insurance, but putting in cover crops may make them eligible for some extra help. Matt Lohr, Chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service: “And this gives an opportunity for some folks to consider cover crops that maybe wouldn’t normally be thinking about cover crops.”


Normally producers plant cover crops after the main crop is off:“but they can also be planted on fields where farmers were prevented from planning a cash crop like we're seeing across many parts of the country this year.” And this year there are financial benefits maybe to putting a cover crop in. First the rules for haying and grazing on those cover crop acres have been changed this year so that you can do that two months earlier than normal, starting September 1st not November 1st.


This will at least help what is developing into a shortage of hay across the country also. Secretary Northey says if he couldn't plant your crops this year. But if you have cover crops you may be eligible for minimal payments under the new trade assistance package. And of course farmers can apply for the USDA equip program to get some help in paying the costs of putting cover crops in Lower says Cover crops are good for the soil particularly this season.


Field set are saturated for a longtime face a lot of challenges including a loss of soil organisms and cover crops can really help reestablish the soil health and career pathways for air and water to move through the soil. So it's many positive functions not just for Soil Health but financially as well.

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