Survey finds cover crop usage strong on prairies

Oct 22, 2021

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Cover cropping is a process that involves planting a crop that may not be able to be harvested conventionally but helps outcrops all the same.

While cover cropping has been gaining prominence in agriculture over the last decade, there were few examples of just how widespread the practice was.

Recently though, a new survey was released showing off just how common the practice is among farmers among the prairies.

Of the 281 farms that responded to the survey, 82% had done cover cropping a previous year, meaning around 50 farms had just picked up the practice.

Just under half of all farms that reported for the survey were growing grains as cash crops, with clover and oats being the most popular crops grown alongside those cash crops.

Some of the biggest motivation from cover crops was the ability to improve soil health and increase biodiversity and organic matter, all of which were the top results reported in the survey.

One of the largest challenges for those growing cover crops was the shorter growing season of the prairies and a lack of moisture present in the soil.

From the survey, a reported 81% of participants saw a benefit due to the use of cover crops, while 24% saw an increase in their farm profit.

However, as 47% of participants did were not able to identify whether or not their farms had a profit, the survey said, it may be too early in the adoption process to determine how cover crops are influencing farm profit across the Prairies.

In the end, the survey was a great resource to figure out how cover crops work on the prairies, according to Callum Morrison, a graduate student at the University Of Manitoba who helped conduct the study.

"I think really the major outcome is just the fact that we now have proof that farmers are cover cropping across a wide swath of the prairies and that these farmers believe that it is working for them and being able to show us how they've been able to integrate cover crops onto the farm."

Morrison says he thinks the trend will hold and more farmers will be using cover crops.

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