“If somebody posed the question—would I farm without cover crops—I would say no,” insists Kirk Brock, who grows corn, soybeans and peanuts on 1,000 acres in Monticello, Fla. His cover crop of choice, cereal rye, protects his hilly ground from erosion, and helps with weed control and moisture retention.
Brock is one of nearly two dozen farmers featured in SARE’s Cover Crop Innovators video series. From row crops to diversified vegetables, these farmers explain how and why cover crops are an indispensable part of their rotations. Cover crops improve yields, protect the soil, retain moisture, increase organic matter and provide many other benefits, and acreage planted to cover crops is increasing across the country, according to a four-year national survey.
Click the map to find cover crop stories near you:
Examples of Stories from Each Region
Ray Gaesser grows 6,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Southwest Iowa. Practicing no-till for the last 30 years has protected his soil, but recent severe rainfalls have convinced him more is needed. “Our goal is to have a cover crop on every acre,” he says.
Trey Hill and his father own Harborview Farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where they grow corn, soybeans and wheat. He has been growing cover crops for 20 years, and in the last few years has been planting them on all of his acreage. He experiments with triticale and cereal rye, but his key cover crops are wheat and barley. Hill describes how he recently switched to planting his cash crops into standing cover crops rather than first terminating the cover crop. This change – giving the cover crop more time to grow and getting better corn emergence – has led his no-till yields to finally match conventional yields.
At Frog Song Organics in North Central Florida, John Bitter grows upwards of 80 crops in a year. Figuring out his rotations is the key to success as an organic farmer, and cover crops are an integral part of every rotation.
Larry Thompson has been planting cover crops on his organic vegetable farm since the 1960s, “long before it was the cool thing to do,” he says. Cover crops improve the soil, manage nutrients, control erosion and provide beneficial insect habitat.