Tillage radish cover crop  tips to maximize its benefits mdash Trenton Roberts University of Arkansas gives guidelines for getting the most from a tillage radish cover crop Delta Farm Press

Growers urged to participate in cover crop survey

Responses influence policy

Mid-South producers are being urged to take a few minutes to provide information for an important cover crop survey currently underway.

“This involves a survey the USDA’s SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) does every year,” says Trent Roberts, University of Arkansas soil scientist. “It’s done in conjunction with the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA).

“In the past, there have been almost no responses – and, ultimately, no information gained – from the Mid-South. Too few of our farmers are taking the survey. I’m just trying to point them towards the importance of providing that information. Filling out the survey will take 10 or 15 minutes.”

Visit www.tinyurl.com/2017coverssurvey to take the survey.

A lot of what’s taken from the survey “goes towards influencing things like NRCS policies towards cover crops. It can also affect federal level funding for conservation resources.”

There’s a flipside to that, as well. “Researchers and those working in cover crops also use that information from the survey towards where our programs need to be directed, what types of things we need to work on to facilitate implementation of cover, and a lot more.

“The more folks who fill out the survey the better off we’ll be. Part of what the survey does is try to capture current practices, what people have done in the past to try and help set trendlines for adoption across the country.”

In the last two years, Roberts has seen “a huge increase in the interest of cover crops and acreage. There are still a lot of questions from growers about cover crops – the who, what, why, when, where questions.”

He’s found there are two groups of people involved in cover crops. “There’s a group eligible for funding through NRCS to plant cover crops. They get a bit of funding to help urge them to dip their toe in the pool. A second group of people read articles and hear stories from neighbors and, whether or not they get any funding, it’s something they want to try.

“There are plenty of good growers out there who do everything right but they’re either not increasing yields, are fighting herbicide-resistant weeds or other issues. They see cover crops as a new tool to introduce into their production system to take that next step. Their ultimate goal may be sustainability, additional yield, profits, or a combination of a lot of different things.”

Roberts encourages growers interested in cover crops to check out the work of the Arkansas Soil Health Alliance (http://bit.ly/2opGX2m). “They’ve started a grassroots group of producers interested in networking and helping make a big push to inform people and get more cover crops in the ground.”

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