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Serving: United States

Cover crops gaining traction, but skeptics remain

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COVER CROPS AT WORK: Respondents to the latest Farm Progress PANEL share their thoughts on cover crops. A majority of those who answered the survey are using the practice, but some questions remain for others.
The latest Farm Progress PANEL shows many farmers are engaged with this practice designed to boost soil health

When folks talk about soil health or carbon sequestration, the conversation often turns to cover crops. And a drive across the Midwest this winter will probably show you more green covered ground than you've seen in the past. At Farm Progress we wanted to know more so we asked our Farm Progress PANEL members their thoughts on the topic.

Our question was simple: "There's a lot of talk about cover crops, what's your approach?"

More than half of the respondents shared they've been using cover crops for some time, which is a good size number of those answering our survey. In addition, about 5% of respondents shared they had tried cover crops this year for the first time. Add it up and nearly 60% of respondents planted cover crops this fall.

Cover crop users can be vocal about the practice too. One responded commented that "it should be mandatory on ground with slope, and one shouldn't get government payments if one doesn't" use covers on inclines.

Adds another advocate: "I believe in cover crops and have been promoting them for years."

Yet there are still questions and a quarter of our respondents shared that they want to know more about the value of cover crops before engaging. And there are questions regarding the cost to plant, and the benefit of having green crop in the field when spring arrives.

And finally, about 17% of respondents made it clear that cover crops are not for them. In some parts of the country, cover crops can be more problematic.

As this practice becomes more widespread, the management tweaks will be worked out. In a recent episode of our podcast Around Farm Progress, Mike Wilson from Farm Futures discussed the carbon issue, and Fran O'Leary from Wisconsin Agriculturist offered insight on a national survey of cover crop users, including financial insights. Check that out here.

During the Farm Progress Virtual Experience, a session focused on soil health explored cover crops and tactics. You can watch that presentation online.

The Farm Progress PANEL is your chance to share your thoughts on key issues. To take part, start by signing up for our daily mobile text service Farm Progress NOW. Just text FARM to 20505, then respond to the text you get back. Later in one of our daily texts we'll provide information about how to sign up for the PANEL.

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