The benefits of cover crops are well-documented: soil improvement, nitrogen scavenging, erosion control - and the list goes on. Just as exciting as the agronomic benefits are the financial benefits to the farmer. Recent studies have shown increased profit per acre following cover crops.
Beck's Superior Hybrids, located in Atlanta, IN, has been looking at the value of cover crops over the past several years. Last year's studies proved to be eye-opening.
For example, in Beck's "Corn After Cover Crop Study" in Central Illinois, corn planted after a cover crop boasted on average a 16 bu. advantage over the non-cover crop control. Annual ryegrass showed the largest advantage. Unique to this particular study were comparisons with reduced nitrogen rates. Once again, cover crops proved to be profitable even as nitrogen rates were cut.
Two other studies to note from Beck's Hybrids:
Do cover crops always increase the bottom line? Apparently not. At Beck's central Illinois PFR location, soybeans planted after cover crops showed a lower profit than soybeans planted into no cover crop.
One other study that has received considerable attention in the Midwest was the trial done on Robison Farms in Johnson County, IN.
Look at the numbers below:
The research and numbers above represent over 3300 individual tests. The yields were double checked and verified. The check plot yields were checked four times.
Should you expect an additional $286.00 per acre profit by planting cover crops? Probably not. But maybe this fall would be a good time to plant a few acres to test on your own farm.