One of the ways that farmers can help preserve soil health and promote conservation is through planting cover crops on their farmland. Planting cover crops have been found to enhance soil organic matter, strengthen soil structures and biological functions.
CSB Ag Lender, Parker Hunt, adds, “With large heavy rains seemingly more common, a cover crop can provide additional residue and root structure to help keep soil intact and reduce erosion.”
Cover crops provide added protection of the soil surface and increase water infiltration and lessen nitrogen loss, which decreases high crop yields.
Cover Crops Cost-Sharing Programs
As of 2017, only four percent of Iowa’s cropland used cover crops, most likely due to the high costs of implementing cover crops. The added cost to plant cover crops average about $40 per acre, without cost-sharing programs.
Parker Hunt explains that, “Some producers may be able to participate in cost-sharing programs which could alleviate some of the costs of growing a cover crop.” There are cost-share programs from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, USDA National Resources Conservation Service, and other sources that pay farmers a fixed per acre rate to plant cover crops. Iowa has the second largest cost-share program for cover crops based on acres enrolled in the program. Participants of cover crop cost-share programs received payments of about $26 per acre.
Cost-Sharing Benefits in Iowa
With only a small percentage of cropland using cover crops, state data shows the environmental benefits of the cost-share programs. In 2015, cost-share programs across Iowa led to 172,000 additional cover crop acres and recipients of cost-share payments planted an additional 15% of their farmland, which would not have been planted without the program. Farmers have the freedom of a range of different cover crop options when deciding what to add into their cropland rotation that most benefits the future health of their fields and product yields.
According to a recent article published by Iowa State University Ag Decision Maker, “… estimate that cover crop use helped avoid 3,078 to 8,405 tons of nitrogen loss in Iowa in 2015.” It is therefore not surprising that the state saw a 29% drop of its nitrogen loss based on cost-sharing programs. With such a reduction in nitrogen loss, cropland has the opportunity to remain healthy and retain more nutrients. Nutrient-rich soil creates stronger soil structure, natural water filtration systems, and develops stronger organic materials for higher yields.
Although the cost of planting cover crops can be a major obstacle for producers, cost-share programs can help provide some assistance. The environmental benefits are attractive in providing less nitrogen loss that is essential for strong produce growth and development. If you are interested in learning more about available cost-sharing programs, contact
your local Ag Lender expert and to get more information.
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