Grassland Oregon announced it will collaborate with other organizations on development of a Western Cover Crop Council.

From break crops and livestock grazing to vineyards and wildlife habitats, the diverse uses and benefits of cover crops are skyrocketing its acreage popularity.

“Currently, an estimated 50,000 agricultural producers in the U.S. are using cover crops in their systems — a figure which is projected to double by 2025 with potentially 40-50 million acres in production,” said Robert Myers, University of Missouri associate plant sciences professor and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE).

“To keep up with this rapidly increasing trend, there is a greater need for information sharing and outreach between researchers, conservation groups and producers.”

SARE, which represents four regional divisions of the U.S., including Northeast, North Central, South and West, provides grants for agricultural producers, educational opportunities, professional development and research projects, and has been a funder of cover crop councils in other regions.

At a recent meeting organized by forage and cover crop company Grassland Oregon, Rob Myers from SARE indicated that the USDA-SARE program is supportive of Western organizations working together on formation of a Western Cover Crop Council (WCCC).

“Cover Crop Councils exist to coordinate educational efforts, develop strategies and discuss means and methods to collectively improve agriculture. In essence, they keep the momentum surrounding soil health moving forward,” said Jerry Hall, director of research for Grassland Oregon.

“The Western region of the U.S. is the only region presently lacking a Cover Crop Council. As leaders in education and cover crop product development, Grassland Oregon felt it was critical to have the entire U.S. represented and engaged. We are pleased to work with SARE, universities and agencies, and representatives of other private organizations to catalyze the formation of a Western Cover Crop Council.”

Varieties Make a Difference

During the 2-day event, cover crop tour attendants, which included producers and representatives from conservation groups, universities and seed companies, learned about the differences between cover crop species and the difference between varieties within species.

“It’s important that we move past speaking of species only and start talking about varieties,” Hall says. “We’ve made great strides in breeding varieties with significant improvements such as increasing nitrogen contribution and cold tolerance. These advancements provide powerful new tools to farmers who expect performance and consistent results. When recommending cover crop species – varieties make a huge difference.”