After Frank Martin talked about cover crops at last winter’s 12th annual National No-Tillage Conference, we discussed the idea of utilizing no-till and cover crops on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land to pump needed dollars back into rural communities.
The veteran no-tiller from Hallsville, Mo., maintains that CRP has had a very negative effect on rural communities. Instead of laying idle, much of the approximately 40 million CRP acres could be producing corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops to feed America’s people and livestock, to export grains to other countries and to produce ethanol and biodiesel fuels instead, he says.
“As a result of the present program, rural communities have lost hundreds of dollars per acre of economic activity,” says Martin. “Counties with a substantial percentage of CRP acres have seen businesses close and infrastructure suffer.”
When it comes to cropping practices, Martin is convinced that no-tilling CRP ground would sharply reduce erosion losses based on results from his own experiences. One of his ideas for getting CRP ground back into production would be waiting until after no-tilling corn or soybeans in the spring to kill a wheat or rye cover crops that’s up to 3 feet tall. Readily adaptable to cropping CRP ground, this idea would keep needed residue on the soil surface to soak up excessive moisture and provide much needed soil protection in these fields.
The federal government’s CRP program was established more than a decade ago to ease the overproduction of U.S. farm…