Survey shows cover crops expand acreage, improve yields

Survey: Cover crops expand acreage, boost yields

cover_crop_corn_residueFor the third year in a row, a national survey of farmers has shown that cover crops improve corn and soybean yields while providing a host of other benefits.

The survey of more than 1,200 farmers revealed that cover crops boosted 2014 corn yields by an average of 3.7 bushels per acre (2.1 percent) and soybeans by 2.2 bushels per acre (4.2 percent). Cover crop acreage per farm more than doubled over the past five years.

The survey was conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) with funding from USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). While the survey showed yield increases among growers who use cover crops, they are interested in more than the yield benefit. The three most-cited benefits of using cover crops were:

  • Increased soil health (22 percent)
  • Increased organic matter (20 percent)
  • Reduced soil erosion (15 percent)

“This shows a strong appreciation for the wide range of long-term benefits cover crops deliver,” says Chad Watts, CTIC program director.

“Many people speculate that low corn and soybean prices would stall the growth of cover crops, but the farmers in the survey are telling us—and demonstrating—that the benefits of cover crops outweigh lower commodity price considerations,” said Rob Myers, regional director of Extension programs for North Central Region SARE.

The extensive survey was distributed with assistance from Corn and Soybean Digest and gathered perspective from 1,248 farmers, 84 percent of whom plant cover crops.