During last week's Ag Day at Maryland State Fair, Governor Martin O'Malley announced another record cover crop program enrollment for 2014/2015 by Maryland farmers. He also praised the ag community for its extraordinary effort for their role in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
Some 1,849 Maryland farms enrolled to plant a record 641,400 acres of winter grains and qualify for grants based on cover crop acres. Maryland agriculture exceeded the Phase I and II Watershed Implementation Plan milestone for cover crops in 2011 and 2013.And the state's farms are on track to exceed it again next year, according to the governor.
The record enrollment "is great news for our farmers who continue to voluntarily take strong conservation actions on their farms, diversify their operations and use new technologies as they become available," said O'Malley. "Their dedication, along with the commitment of thousands of volunteers, will help us move our state forward [on the environmental front]. It'll also help more Maryland farmers sustain their family businesses."
Cover crops are one of the most cost-effective means of helping to restore the Chesapeake Bay. Farmers plant them in the fall, following the harvest of corn, soybeans and vegetables.
Rye, wheat, barley and other crops are planted as cover crops because they recycle unused plant nutrients remaining in the soil from the previous crop, protect fields against wind and water erosion, and help improve the soil for the next year's crop.
Maryland's Cover Crop Program provides farmers with grants to plant cover crops on their fields immediately following the summer crop harvest.
Top 10 cover crop counties
Top counties ranked by most cover crop acres enrolled are:
1. Queen Anne's – 65,716
2. Kent – 64,851
3. Talbot – 60,150
4. Caroline – 55,094
5. Dorchester – 49,149
6. Frederick – 48,506
7. Worcester – 44,356
8. Carroll – 34,338
9. Wicomico – 34,307
10. Montgomery – 30,737
Click on by_county , for farm number and acreage enrollment numbers.