There’s no official tally, but according to a recent survey of Iowa farms by economic research firm Datu Research, about one out of four Iowa farms are using cover crops or about 23 percent of respondents.
While naturally it’s a little too late to plant them now, Wayne Honeycutt with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service says the benefits are clear-cut.
For one, Honeycutt cites a reduction in nutrient runoff in addition to fixing nutrients in place for use by the next crop.
Furthermore, Honeycutt says NRCS found that following the 2012 drought, farmers with cover crops saw an average 11 to 14 percent yield increase on the next crop.
In the Datu survey, a majority of the respondents making use of cover crops were doing so on one hundred acres or less.
Honeycutt says that’s a good place to begin, “I think with any new management practice, it’s always good to start small and maybe not invest on every acre on their land. But you can get lots of good advice from NRCS, from their local cooperative extension office, and other places on what are their most suitable cover crops for them and their cropping systems and that would really be my advice to them but also to apply for some of our NRCS programs so we can provide financial assistance to help them get their cover crops established and to help them through that learning curve for the next two or three years as they’re learning how to manage their cover crops.”