No-Till Farmer recently had a seat at the table as major influencers in U.S. agriculture discussed how we can push the acreage seeded to cover crops to 20 million acres by 2020. 

Soil health scientists, no-tillers and policymakers met at the National Conference On Cover Crops And Soil Health in Omaha last month to share their knowledge and identify ways to reach this goal. Today, cover-crop acreage is estimated just under 3 million, which means acres would need to increase by more than 500% in the next 6 years to achieve that goal.

So why 20 million by 2020?

Howard W. Buffett, son of prominent no-tiller and philanthropist Howard G. Buffett of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, says reaching this goal is a first step toward building farms that are sustainable and can meet the world’s growing demand for food. 

NRCS Chief Jason Weller says increased cover-crop adoption will also assure farm ground here will be healthy and productive in the coming decades for future generations.

Howard G. Buffett also says cover crops are a tool that can help clean up watersheds before states face a situation like the Chesapeake Bay region, where there is tight U.S. EPA scrutiny of farming practices to reduce nutrient loading. 

“We have the opportunity to change this in a way that we can make fit into our system, and do it the way we want and maintain flexibility,” Buffett says. “Regulation doesn’t give you all those options.”

The question that remains about this cover-crop goal isn’t why, but how. And that’s where no-tillers come in.

Maybe you can try cover crops for the first time this year. If you’re already using covers, could you host a field day to show local growers how you’ve succeeded on your farm? Is there a possibility of growing cover-crop seed to help support the local market? 

The idea is to take that first step and do something. 

Laura Allen,
Associate Editor
No-Till Farmer