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Reports Urge More 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 9, 2013

CASPER, Wyo. - Growing in the offseason can bring more cash to 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 bring environmental benefits as well.

Report author Lara Bryant explained the advantages for Wyoming 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 - and choices depend on the types of cash crops in rotation, as well as climate and management requirements.

Early snow in some parts of Wyoming this year likely disrupted some plans for cover crops. The reports recommend better government tracking of cover crops, along with satellite imaging to track benefits to waterways.

While most cover crops are not of cash value, Bryant said, some Wyoming farmers have been creative.

"You'll find that with Northern Great Plains farmers, you'll have farmers that graze the cover crop," she said. "So, it has forage benefits."

In some areas of the country, water treatment facilities are paying farmers to install cover crops because they keep phosphorus from running off the land and into those facilities.

The reports, "Counting Cover Crops" and "Clean Water Grows," are online at nwf.org/news.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY