A new USDA survey says cover crops are more popular than was earlier thought. Growers who responded to the survey say they’re using cover crops on 40 percent of their cropland in 2022.
Successful Farming says that hints at a sizable increase from the 15.4 million acres of cover crops listed in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The 2010 Census reported cover crop area at 10.3 million acres.
The USDA’s Conservation Practice Adoption Motivations 2021 Report says a large number of farmers, 59 percent, use cover crops on their farms. That’s from a survey of 34,000 farmers that ran from May through September.
The USDA survey took a broader look at farmers’ conservation practices and what tools and behaviors have been adopted. The most common conservation practices used by responding farmers were Irrigation Management and System Improvements (90%), Tillage Practices (84%), Drainage Water Management (80%), Pest Management (78%), Nutrient Management (70%) and Cover Crops came in as the number 6 most commonly used conservation practice.
Farmers say they used cover crops on 40 percent of their cropland. Earlier this month, the Ag Economy Barometer, which surveys large-scale farmers, said 57 percent of respondents used cover crops on at least some of their land, a jump up from 52 percent in 2021. Half of those farmers say they sowed cover crops on 25 percent or less of their land.
“US farmers are rapidly expanding the adoption of cover crops,” said USDA economists in a 2021 cover crop trends report. “Financial incentives are one driver of increased cover crop adoption.”