Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey last week announced that 117 Iowa farmers took advantage of changes that were made earlier this year to the Iowa financial incentives program for soil conservation, which is commonly called state cost share, to install 4,660 acres of cover crops across the state. The change in the rules allows farmers to use conservation cost-share funding to help establish cover crops.
"We are excited about the initial response we received to this new effort to encourage the use of cover crops and hope it is the start of many more farmers looking at and using this conservation practice," says Northey. "We've seen growing interest in cover crops and with the drought and early harvest in 2012 it was a good opportunity for farmers to try them on their farm."
IDALS made rule change so state cost-sharing can be used for establishing cover crops
The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship made the rule change in August that included cover crops as an eligible practice in the state cost share program. Through the program Iowa provided up to $25 per acre for establishment of the cover crop. In total the department's $104,253 investment was matched by farmers and landowners in 24 different Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state.
Research has shown that cover crops can be an effective management tool to control erosion from wind and water and the crop ties up the nitrogen in the soil and reduces the potential for nitrate to leach into surface water and ground water. Nitrate transport to streams can be particularly high after a drought period when stressed crops may not have used all available fertilizer or in times of excessive moisture.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program, commonly known as EQIP, also provide assistance for cover crops and has seen tremendous growth in recent years. In 2012 that federal program provided assistance to support cover crops on 51,635 acres in Iowa, up from 4,059 acres in 2009.