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Reports Urge More Ohio Farmers to Take Cover

PHOTO: Cover crops are good for farmers' bottom lines as well as rivers. Two new reports from the National Wildlife Federation find that the use of cover crops is growing, but still just a fraction of the potential. Photo courtesy NWF.
PHOTO: Cover crops are good for farmers' bottom lines as well as rivers. Two new reports from the National Wildlife Federation find that the use of cover crops is growing, but still just a fraction of the potential. Photo courtesy NWF.
October 1, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Growing in the off-season can bring in more cash in the crop season. Two new reports from the National Wildlife Federation make the case that cover crops, which are growing in popularity, are a big plus to farmers' bottom lines, and they bring environmental benefits.

Report author Lara Bryant, agriculture program coordinator for NWF, explained the benefits for Ohio farmers.

"They keep the nutrients on the ground and out of streams," she said. "They improve the quality of the soil so, over time, you'll see improved yields in the crops. And they also sequester a lot of carbon."

Clover, oats, radishes and ryes are examples of crops that can be grown when fields would normally be fallow: choices depend on the types of cash crops in rotation, as well as climate and management requirements. The reports recommend better government tracking of cover crops, along with satellite imaging to track benefits to waterways.

According to Bryant, water-treatment facilities in the Buckeye State are among some others across the country that are paying farmers to sow cover crops, because such crops help keep phosphorus from running off the land and into those facilities.

"The Miami River Conservancy District in Ohio is featured in our report, and they're a great example of a water utility working with farmers to save ratepayers money and keep pollutants out of streams," Brant said. "That way, Ohio citizens have clean, usable water."

572 tons' worth of nutrient reductions were recorded in the Miami Conservancy District program's pilot phase.

The reports, "Counting Cover Crops," and "Clean Water Grows," are available at NWF.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH