No-Tillers Are Well Ahead Of Tillage-Intensive Farmers When It Comes To Cashing In On The Numerous Benefits Of Adding Cover Crops To The Rotation

Data from a recent cover-crop survey offers solid evidence that no-tillers are ahead of many other farmers when it comes to recognizing the value of keeping their ground covered throughout the year.

No-tillers not only see the economic value of cover crops, but also recognize a long list of other benefits, such as reduced soil erosion, improved weed control, increased nutrient and moisture availability and more effective pest control.

A survey of 759 farmers, including growers that attended last winter’s 21st annual National No-Tillage Conference in Indianapolis, sheds new light on the value of cover crops. Conducted by the USDA’s North Central Regional Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE) and the Conservation Technology Information Center, the results demonstrate why investing dollars in cover crops is a good strategy.

While many growers utilize more than one tillage practice, 55% of the farmers are following a continuous no-till program, while 19% do rotational no-till. Strip-tillage and vertical tillage are each used by 12% of the growers.

By comparison, only 10% of the growers that filled out the survey are using conventional tillage, while reduced tillage was used by 19%.

Big Yield Benefits

The results showed that corn planted after cover crops had a 9.6% yield boost when compared to side-by-side fields without cover crops. Soybean yields jumped nearly 12% following a cover crop.

But the big news occurred in areas of the Corn Belt that were hit hard by last year’s drought. In an extremely dry year, there was a 14.3%…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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