Progress report shows an increase in soil health practices


When farmers are interested in adding cover crops or other soil health practices into their operation, they often look to their neighbors for more information. A report from the Soil Health Institute shows there is an increase in farmers adding those practices into their operation. The Soil Health Institute released Progress Report: Adoption of Soil Health Systems, based on data from the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture.

The analysis includes a state-by-state breakdown of changes in adoption from 2012 to 2017 for soil health practices like cover crops and no-till production. Cover crop and no-till practices both support biological activity in the soil. Cover crops are particularly effective at protecting water quality, and no-till is particularly effective at increasing carbon sequestration in soils.

The report was developed by Rob Myers, Ph.D., a University of Missouri agronomist and Co-chair of the Soil Health Institute Policy Action Team, and Joe LaRose, a University of Missouri extension associate.

Cover crop acreage grew rapidly between the Census years of 2012 and 2017, reflecting information seen in other data sources and reported by cover crop seed companies and farmers themselves.

A few highlights from the Census data include:

  • Cover crop acres increased from 10.3 million acres in 2012 to 15.4 million acres in 2017, a 50% increase
  •  Eight states more than doubled their cover crop acreage from 2012 to 2017
  • The number of farm operations with cover crops increased by 15.2% from 2012 to 2017, to a total of 153,402

Although the number of farm operations with cover crops significantly increased, the growth rate was even faster in the number of cover crop acres per farm, showing that once farmers got started with cover crops, they kept multiplying their acreage.

There were 9 states (MD, CT, VT, VA, PA, DE, RI, NH, and MA) that had more than 20% of their “available” cropland planted to cover crops, and
19 states that had over 10% cover crops.

For further information and the full report, visit the Soil Health Institute website.

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