NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The use of cover crops is having positive effects on the environment and also on the bottom line for farmers, according to industry experts.
And it appears that the latest trend could be even more beneficial.
Traditionally, cover crops are alternated with cash crops mainly to help limit nutrient runoff and erosion on cover-cropped acres over the off-season.
At the Gabe Brown Ranch, cover crops are now used on all acres every year.
Gabe Brown said the next major shift in the farming industry is expected to be the mixing of species.
“In many areas, they’re using monoculture cover crops, either rye or rye-grass,” Brown said. “Well, what we’re finding is that by adding other species to those mixes such as a legume or a brassica, like radish the benefit will increase substantially. So, we’re going to see a big increase in producers using poly-culture covers.”
While the use of cover crops is increasing, many are currently found on just a tiny percentage of cropland in the country.
Brown said he expects that to change, as more farmers realize the positive impact that cover crops can have on water quality and soil health.
It can really pay off to use cover crops along with other land conservation and stewardship practices, he added.
“Our average yields are about 25 percent higher than county average,” Brown said. “Yet, we’re doing this for a fraction of the cost, so we’re putting many more dollars in our pockets.”
He continued by saying, “But along with that, the important thing to me is we’re regenerating these resources, making them healthier for a future generation.”
Brown’s operation is in North Dakota, but he said the strategies for cover crops are universal. He said that producers would just need to match up the best species for their local growing conditions.