Study finds ROI a stumbling block for widespread adoption of cover crops

March 13, 2018

Dr. Alejandro PlastinaAlejandro Plastina, assistant professor, along with Fernando Miguez, associate professor of agronomy; Fangge Liu and Wendiam Sawadgo, graduate students in economics; Guillermo Marcillo, graduate student in agronomy; and Sarah Carlson, the strategic initiatives director for Practical Farmers of Iowa, found substantial variability in net returns, driven by the costs of planting and terminating cover crops, feed cost savings from grazing cover crops, cost-share program payments, and the difference in yields obtained in fields with and without cover crops.

“We have a substantial body of research that shows cover crops have positive long-term benefits for water quality, soil health and the environment,” said Plastina. “Farmers also have positive perceptions about the value of cover crops and can take advantage of cost-share programs that incentivize their use.”

“But it’s likely that the number of acres planted won’t substantially scale up if the practice doesn’t at least break-even in the short term,” he added.

“Cost-share payments are a critical incentive to support the practice of cover crops,” Plastina said. “But we found that for most farmers, these payments are insufficient to cover all costs associated with cover crops.”

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