Cover cropping is the practice of planting a fast-growing, usually non-cash crop (or set of crops) after harvesting a cash crop. The benefits of cover cropping are immense for improving water quality, preventing erosion, improving soil health, reducing dependence on fertilizers, improving weed control and growing healthier crops. It is a more sustainable practice that has fallen by the wayside in our current corn-driven industrial agriculture economy, but a new study from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) reports that it may be making a comeback.
The report, written by Rob Myers who surveyed almost 2,000 farmers in the upper midwest (corn and soybean country) about their practices, found that there are about 30% more acres in cover crop than there were last year and that cover cropping boosted yields for farmers on an average of 3.5% higher than farms without cover crops. Last year, due to a drought in the area, a similar survey found that yields were roughly 11% higher, showing this practice’s ability to create farming systems that are resistant to changing global weather patterns.
Why is this small study in the upper midwest important? It shows that even corn and soy farmers in the heart of our industrial agriculture system are dedicated to more sustainable practices. This is one more small step towards actualizing the change that we need to make in our food system. We hope and expect to see a rise in the practice of cover cropping among our nation’s farmers.
PHOTO: via flickr
2013-14 Cover Crop Survey Analysis via Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson