The practice of using cover crops still has plenty of room for growth, according to the results of the August Purdue Ag Economy Barometer. The barometer is determined from phone survey responses from 400 growers from across the U.S.
Forty-one percent of growers with production of more than $500,000 annually said they are currently using cover crops, while 65% of growers responded that they had either used cover crops in the past or were currently using covers.
Among those growers currently using cover crops, 47% began seeding covers within the last 5 years. This statistic aligns with the results of the 2021 Cover Crop Strategies Benchmark Study, which found that 40% of respondents had less than 5 years’ experience with covers. In 2019, the benchmark study found that 42% of growers had seeded cover crops for 1-5 years.
The Cover Crop Strategies Benchmark Study was once again ahead when we found that 24% of growers had more than a decade of experience with covers. The Purdue Ag Economy Barometer found that 29% of growers had been using cover crops more than 10 years.
Growers responding to the Purdue Ag Economy Barometer survey shared that they only use covers on part of their acres. Fifty-nine percent of cover crop users said that they plant covers on 25% or less of their total acreage, while 10% of cover crop users seed covers on more than 75% of their acres.
Again, this aligns with the Cover Crop Benchmark Study findings. Slightly less than half (47%) of growers reported using cover crops on less than 300 acres, while 14% of growers use covers on 300-500 acres. A mere 15% of growers seed covers on more than 1,000 acres.
Across the board, growers have the same motivations for seeding covers. The Purdue Ag Economy Barometer findings were (in order) to improve soil health, improve erosion control and improve water quality. Only 10% of growers responded that capitalizing on the growing carbon sequestration market was driving their choice to utilize cover crops.
The results from the Cover Crop Strategies Benchmark Study were slightly different. Slightly more than a quarter of growers (26%) stated that improving soil biology was their top reason for using covers, followed by reducing soil erosion at 21%. Increasing soil organic matter was the top reason for 14% of growers.