Cover Crops Raise Corn, Soybean Returns

For No-tillers growing corn and soybeans, seeding cover crops will almost always increase profits. But maybe not right away, maintains the Univ. of Missouri’s Rob Myers.

Also the regional director of extension programs at North-Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Myers says farmer data shows corn and soybean yields consistently increase the year after seeding a cover crop. The 5-year study was based on $25 per acre for seed and $12 per acre seeding costs for a total of $37 per acre. 

Takes Time

Myers says yields gradually increase the longer cover crops are used. After 5 years of cover cropping, corn yields increased by 3% and by nearly 5% per acre with soybeans.

Even so, farmers in year 1 lost an average of $31.36 per acre when seeding cover crops ahead of corn. For soybeans, the 1st-year loss in income averaged $23.44 per acre. By year 5, Myers says growers can expect an increase in annual income of $17.90 for corn and $10.18 per acre for soybeans.

Other Savings, Too

The study showed that growers were seeing an average savings of $2 per acre in controlling erosion in year 1 and were saving $10 per acre on weed control by year 3.

Cover cropping can also reduce fertilizer costs. By year 5, soybeans growers save $8.40 an acre on phosphorus (P) expenses. By that time, farmers raising corn may save $11.40 per acre on nitrogen and $10.50 on P.

Using cover crops should reduce the need for herbicides…

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Lessiter frank

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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