An Introduction  to Cover Crop Economics An Introduction  to Cover Crop Economics

An Introduction to Cover Crop Economics - PowerPoint Presentation

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Uploaded On 2018-03-16

An Introduction to Cover Crop Economics - PPT Presentation

Do cover crops pay Objectives Identify the costs of planting cover crops Explore the benefits and returns How do costs and benefits add up Longterm and offfarm benefits Resources for funding ID: 653829

crops cover soil crop cover crops crop soil returns photo benefits acre planting seed reduce yield grazing management cost




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An Introduction

to Cover Crop Economics

Do cover crops pay?Slide2


Identify the costs of planting cover cropsExplore the benefits and returnsHow do costs and benefits add up?Long-term and off-farm benefits

Resources for fundingSlide3

First, what are the costs?

Cost per acre



Planting the seed


Terminating the cover crop




Average cost for seed and seeding the cover crop: $37/acre,


ased on SARE/CTIC/ASTA cover crop survey data.Slide4


: Rob Myers

Incorporating cover crops into the cropping system may require adapting current equipment or hiring someone to do the planting equipment, possibly with a high clearance seeder which allows the planting of a cover crop before a cash crop is harvested.Slide5

Crop Year













Data provided from farmers in the SARE/CTIC national cover crop survey. Differences are statistically significant based on analysis by Purdue University

. 2012 was a major drought year, where cover crop benefits were striking due to better soil moisture management.

2-12% yield increases reported in corn and soybean crops planted after a cover crop

Benefits and returnsSlide6

Increases in soybean yield over

time (years) since starting the use of cover cropsSlide7

Cover crops can also add to a farm’s bottom line by sometimes reducing the need for inputs like fertilizer or pesticides and by adding an opportunity to graze livestock on cover crops as a high value forage.

Photo by Aaron Roth

Photo by Rob MyersSlide8


Return per acre

Yield increase


- 32


fertilizer savings



$0-5 (soybean)

Weed and pest management


Grazing opportunities


*Based on stocking two head of cattle per acre for one to two months at Missouri land leasing values for animal grazing. This may undervalue the high quality of cover crop fall forage compared to existing pasture grass.Slide9

Crimson clover

Photo: Rob Myers

Legume cover crops fix atmospheric nitrogen and may therefore provide nitrogen to other crops and may reduce fertilizer-related input costs.Slide10

Net Returns?

Cost per acre

Return per acre



Yield increase



Planting the seed



fertilizer savings



$0-5 (soybean)

Terminating the cover crop


Weed and pest management



before grazing

Grazing potential income





Total potential return with grazing included


Potential exists for positive net returns if cover crops are managed and utilized well.Slide11

Long-term returns

Build soil organic matter – improve nutrient cycling, soil moisture, and land value

Reduce soil compaction (potentially eliminate deep tillage)

Reduce disease pressure by increasing system diversity

Improve overall soil health – improve yields, increased resilience

Reduce erosion of soil

Mix of oats, radish, and triticale in


, PA on Steve Groff’s farm.

Photo by Edwin


Most farmers agree that cover crops can reduce yield variability during extreme weather events.Slide13

Less sedimentation in streams and rivers

Reduced movement of pesticides off of farms

Reduced nutrient loading of surface waters – local rivers, lakes, and even further to areas like the Gulf of Mexico

Increased sequestration of carbon into the soil

Benefits for wildlife, pollinators

Countryside value – greener landscape fall to spring

Off-farm returns

to societySlide14

Landscapes are connected by air and water.

Cover crops not only benefit the farmer but also benefit society, through off-farm returns in water and air quality enhancement and the creation of habitat for pollinators.

Photo by Edwin


From the farmers:

“Cover crops are a long term investment in improving your soil biology.”“Start small with crops that winter kill. Realize that the real benefits will come with time. Proper mindset is crucial.”Slide16


Many see cover crops as a long term investment in their soil health and productivityThe profitability of cover crops depends upon each particular enterprise and management decisions.Cover crops should be managed and planned for like any other part of the enterprise.

It may take a trial and error process to get the system that works best.Slide17

Resources for funding

NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives ProgramNRCS Conservation Stewardship ProgramSARE Program Farmer Rancher grants

State cost-share programsSlide18

Thank you!

Photo by Edwin