Conservation agriculture. 

Regenerative agriculture. 

Sustainable agriculture. 

Resilient agriculture. 

Climate smart farming. 

It doesn’t matter what you call it, cover crops are a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to building soil health and environmental stewardship. 

Environmental stewardship is everyone’s responsibility. Landowners should be invested in conservation practices as well, since 40% of U.S. farmland — some 350 million acres — is owned by non-operating landowners. Maintaining positive, long-standing relationships with landowners is imperative to farmers who are renters. 

That’s why we’ve included a story in this issue of Cover Crop Strategies about how to negotiate with your landlord about grazing cover crops. 

In a 2020 American Farmland Trust survey of non-operating landowners, more than 50% of respondents in 8 key farming states indicated that they would be willing to include lease provisions related to specific conservation practices or would be willing to require farmers to “implement soil erosion practices to improve soil health” — such as adopting cover crops. 

According to the 2017 Ag Census, cover crops were only used on 3.7% of harvested crop acres. Four years later, what progress has been made on increasing the number of acres where cover crops are grown? As more growers are embracing the cover crop movement, they are finding that there’s money to be made by reducing inputs, grazing livestock on covers, and improving soil health. In this issue, a no-tiller from South Dakota shares the story of how he’s accomplished all three of those goals.

As you likely know, the health of watersheds across the U.S. are constantly in focus and agriculture is, rightly or not, frequently in the crosshairs. One of the well-known benefits of cover crop use is capturing nutrients and holding them in the soil, and in this issue, you’ll read about a group of Kansas growers who have lowered the amount of nutrient runoff and sediments in their local watershed to the extent that the aquatic life living in the watershed is now no longer considered in danger. 

Among other things, you’ll find out how cover crops are critical to improving soil health; how an Ohio operation terminates their cover crops using a manure dragline; and how a Minnesota grower uses covers to control weeds and erosion while protecting sensitive vegetables.

I sincerely hope the pages in this report help you come away new ideas and insights on implementing cover crops successfully on your operation and to boost soil and animal health, increase yields, reduce inputs and enhance your farm’s bottom line.