Farmers say cover crops are on 40% of cropland
Cover crops are more popular than previously known, according to a USDA survey. Growers reported using cover crops on 40% of their cropland in 2021, suggesting a sizable increase from the 15.4 million acres of cover crops listed in the 2017 Census of Agriculture; the two dozen “principal crops” covered 317 million acres last year.
A large majority of farmers, 59%, said they employed cover crops on their farms, said USDA in the Conservation Practice Adoption Motivations 2021 report, based on survey of 34,000 farmers from May through September. They said cover crops were used on 40% of their cropland. It was the lowest adoption rate of six practices in the survey.
Earlier this month, the Ag Economy Barometer, which surveys large-scale farmers, said 57% of respondents used cover crops on at least some of their land, up from 52% in 2021. Half of farmers said they sowed cover crops on 25% or less of their land and 27% said they had cover crops on up to half of their land, much the same as in 2021.
In the 2017 Census of Agriculture, farmers said they had planted 15.4 million acres of cover crops, up from 10.3 million acres in the 2012 census. “US farmers are rapidly expanding the adoption of cover crops,” said USDA economists in a 2021 report. “Financial incentives … are one driver of increased cover crop adoption.”