The idea of adding something new like cover crops to your no-till operation may seem a little scary at first. In the semi-arid Great Plains there are always concerns about cover crops using too much moisture, as well as unknowns with the cost of a cover-crop program and management.

But a recent survey shows that when it comes to protecting yields, cover crops are an essential tool. In the fourth annual national cover crop survey conducted by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), 34% of 1,022 respondents, mostly farmers, said cover crops increased their profitability, and 26% said covers don’t affect profitability.

About 35% said they didn’t have enough data or experience to say whether cover crops affected profitability, and less than 6% said covers decreased profitability.

When asked of their opinion on the statement, “Using cover crops can reduce yield variability associated with weather extremes such as strong, intense storms and droughts, etc.” 30% of 1,010 respondents strongly agreed and 37% agreed. “Neutral” received 28% of the responses, and only 6% either disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Interestingly enough, some 35% of famers who rated the weather-extremes question said they “strongly agreed” they would increase their use of cover crops if doing so lowered their crop insurance premiums, and 28% agreed.

SARE also noted a newer, growing trend toward grazing livestock on cover crops to get more from their acreage throughout the year — especially with weaker crop prices of late.

Below in our main feature article, three no-tillers from Texas and Oklahoma will tell you in their own words how and why they’ve added cover crops to their operation, as they work to improve soil and animal health, reduce the cost of haying and supplementation and boost their farm’s outlook for the future.

That’s not to say they don’t have challenges with seeding and working with, but they’ve chosen take the long-term view of needs to be done to run a sustainable, profitable farm that can be passed on properly to the next generation.

Click here to download a copy of SARE’s cover crops report.