When it Comes to Capitalizing on the Many Benefits of Cover Crops, No-Tillers Are So Far Ahead of Growers Using More Intensive Tillage That it’s Embarrassing

Data from several surveys conducted this year by No-Till Farmer shows no-tillers are years ahead of growers using other tillage practices when it comes to cover crop adoption. In fact, no-tillers are so far ahead that I wonder whether the majority of growers using intensive tillage really see the value of cover crops.

To make my point, I’m relying on an analysis of data from several recent surveys that demonstrate how no-tillers have recognized the many benefits of cover crops much faster than growers using intensive tillage. Generally speaking, no-tillers are more innovative and quicker to try new ideas, and they’ve seen the higher economic returns and soil-building benefits that are earned from cover crops.

No-Tillers Are on Top

Data from our 12th annual No-Till Farmer No-Till Operational Benchmark study that included over 600 no-tillers showed 81% seeded cover crops in 2019. Results from our first-ever Cover Crop Benchmark Study that included data from over 1,400 farmers using cover crops with various tillage practices revealed that 83% seeded cover crops in 2019. Even looking back to 2008 when the first No-Till Farmer Benchmark Study was conducted, 49% of no-tillers were already seeding cover crops. 

By comparison, data from the 2017 Ag Census conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t paint as bright a picture for cover crops. It showed cover crops were seeded on only 7% of U.S. cropland in 2017. While the Ag Census data shows 15.4 million acres of cover crops were seeded on 153,400 farms in…

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