Due to a late harvest, heavy fall rains and resulting saturated soil conditions, Maryland Department of Agriculture has pushed back the Nov. 5 cover crop planting to Nov. 12. That gives producers another week to finish and qualify for the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program.
Qualifying crops include rye, wheat and triticale. The extension is only available to those using no-till, conventional, or broadcast with light, minimum or vertical tillage. Farmers must certify their cover crop acreage with the local soil conservation district by Nov. 18, to be reimbursed for seed, labor and equipment costs.
Farmers participating in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Cover Crop Program should contact their local soil conservation district to determine how this extension may impact their NRCS contracts.
The goal of this popular statewide program is to help control soil erosion and recover any unused plant nutrients remaining on their fields. "Many areas of the state have experienced historic rainfall amounts this fall, not to mention the unusually early snowstorm which delayed harvests and prevented many farmers from planting their cover crops as planned," says Maryland Ag Secretary Buddy Hance.
"Extending the planting deadline will allow those enrolled in our Cover Crop Program to plant more acres of protective cover crops on their fields and achieve maximum water quality benefits for the streams and rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay."
Cereal cover crops thrive in cool weather. They help slow down rainwater runoff during the winter, when the soil would otherwise be exposed, while recycling any nutrients remaining in the soil from the previous summer crop.
Going for another record
During the 2010-2011 planting season, Maryland farmers planted a record 400,330 acres of cover crops on their farms. By far the largest cover crop planting in the program's history, the 2010-2011 planting prevented an estimated 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen and 80,000 pounds of phosphorus from impacting local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.
Earlier this summer, Maryland farmers signed up to plant a record 550,000 acres of cover crops this fall. The planting extension will help these farmers get the job done and meet Maryland's Phase I Watershed Implementation Plan goals.
Maryland's Cover Crop program is funded by the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund with additional support from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. For additional information on the Cover Crop Program, farmers should visit their local soil conservation district or contact the MACS office at 410-841-5864.