OVER THE COLES: Incentives added for planting cover crops | Agriculture

URBANA – Cover crops are an effective field management strategy to stem the loss of nitrate nitrogen and total phosphorus from corn-soybean fields, but less than 6 percent of Illinois cropland is planted for cover crops each year.

To meet the water quality goals of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, 35 to 75 percent of Illinois’ cropland will need to be protected with cover crops, depending on the package. conservation practices implemented.

“Cover crops can improve the resilience of Illinois farms by preventing erosion and improving the ability of many soil types to absorb water that will later be available for cash crops,” says Talon Becker , an educator in commercial agriculture at the Illinois Extension. “As we face the challenges of 21st century production and sustainability, farmers who attempt and then adopt practices to improve the ‘health’, resilience and productivity of their soil are in the best interests of all. “

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In addition to the on-farm benefits of improving soil function and health, cover crops also improve the quality of the environment, providing multiple benefits to communities in Illinois. “Because cover crops can improve soil resilience, it is possible to reduce variations in yield from year to year, which means there may be fewer insurance claims over time. time, ”says Becker.

A number of possible scenarios for meeting the nutrient loss reduction targets, all of which included cover crops, were described in the most recent nutrient loss reduction strategy biennial report.

“Based on these estimates, we need over 6 million acres of cover crops to meet short-term nutrient loss reduction targets,” Becker explains. “Illinois currently has about 1.4 million acres of cover land, which means we still have a long way to go. go with the adoption of cover crops to achieve our goals. Incentive programs like this can help us build momentum for cover crop adoption and help achieve these goals. “

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A new premium rebate program offers assistance to farmers who plant cover crops on hectares installed outside of the incentives of state and federal programs, such as EQIP, CSP, and cost-sharing of l ‘State. American Farmland Trust is leading a coalition of partners in Illinois to deliver fall blankets for spring savings.

The University of Illinois Extension, as part of the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership, says each eligible candidate receives a $ 5 per acre rebate on the following year’s crop insurance bill for each acre of cover crop registered and accepted into the program.

Interested candidates can find more information at: tinyurl.com/FCSS2020.

This program and level of funding for Illinois conservation districts is good news in these difficult times. Tariffs, years of declining commodity prices and volatile weather conditions induced by climate change have all taken their toll on agricultural countries. Any support for conservation can help ensure that soil erosion and water quality do not go from bad to worse and that farmers are prepared to succeed with better soil health.

Applications are open on a first come, first served basis on December 15th and must be fully completed to be eligible. Those needing assistance applying for this program can consult their local SWCD office OR the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA).

Individuals must certify cover crops planted in the fall to the FSA office using FSA form 578. IDOA will verify the applications and the respective acreage. The IDOA may contact applicants for additional information. Applicants should keep documentation of cover crops that have been sown (eg, seed bills) and use the recommendations of the Midwest Cover Crop Council – Cover Crop Tool. To ensure that the practice achieves the desired results, no tillage across the full width / end of the cover crop in the fall is allowed.

American Farmland Trust led the effort to bring this program across the finish line, working with Illinois Corn Growers, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts, The Nature Conservancy, Delta Institute, Prairie Rivers Network , the Izaak Walton League, Illinois Environmental Council, and the Illinois Department of Agriculture and USDA Risk Management Agency.

The Midwest Cover Crop Council provides information on alternative cover crop species, Becker explains, including species, rate, date, and termination recommendations at mccc.msu.edu/covercroptool/