Cover Crop Train Keeps Rolling On

Use hits all-time high at 83%, but more cereal rye seeded to trim costs.

No-Till Farmer readers appear firmly committed to using cover crops. The percentage of no-tillers using cover crops grew to 83% in 2017 — a 6-point jump over the prior year, an all-time high in the decade-old no-till benchmark study and the 6th consecutive year of growth.

With an average of 451 acres of cropland seeded to covers, no-tillers beat the 2016 record of 429 cropping acres on average seeded to cover crops.

While sold on cover crops, no-tillers appear to be carefully watching their seed costs. While 60.7% of readers applied multispecies cover crops, that was down from 62.4% the previous year and 63.1% in 2015.

Cereal rye was seeded by 73.8% of cover crop users — a significant jump from 62% of no-tillers in 2016 and an indication they were looking to keep costs under control.


All other species surveyed saw declines in usage, including radishes (51.2% to 49.9%); small grains like oats, wheat and barley (53.2% to 51.1%); annual ryegrass (27.9% to 25.5%); clover (37.4% to 37.0%); peas (24.3% to 20.8%); hairy vetch (18% to 13.8%); sorghum-sudangrass (15.1% to 9.3%); buckwheat (14.2% to 11.2%); millet (8.6% to 5.5%); and others (26.3% to 22.2%).

Fall post-harvest remains the most popular timing of application among no-tillers at 76%, while pre-harvest comes in at 24.9% and at-harvest follows closely at 23.7%. Interseeding into an early emerging crop is practiced by 6.3% of no-tillers.

While drills remain the top way of seeding cover crops, their use fell from 61.6% of no-tillers in…

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Darrell Bruggink

Executive Editor/Publisher

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