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Fostering Sustainable Agriculture through Research, Education and Policy since 1984

First Year Complete- Institute Investigating Economics of Cover Crop Use

We’ve finished data collection on year one of a multi-year, on-farm project to evaluate the economic impact of cover crop use on farm profitability. This project, funded by a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) partnership program grant, is evaluating the returns to cover crop use to help sell the practice to non-cover crop users without using cost-share programs. The overwhelming consensus of survey data shows farmers are extremely interested in soil health benefits, but in a depressed farm economy, return to cover crop investment is the driving factor in decision making.

In this project, we are evaluating production economics of corn following several different cover crops on 5 farms in Southeast Wisconsin. Each of the cooperators are experienced cover crop users, using their established management systems, so results should show the true difference between cover crop and no cover crop. We are using field scale equipment and field-length strips with multiple replicates. Our analysis will use their actual costs and returns, eliminating the assumptions which often accompany economic analysis. Our intent is to use the data to persuade non-users to adopt cover use to protect soil and water resources in the region. Data will be available this winter so stay tuned.

Corn yield measurements on two on-farm trials, Palmyra and East Troy, Fall 2017.