Cover crops are an increasingly popular management practice among many U.S. farmers. The goal is to provide seasonal living cover between their primary commodity cash crops.
Farmers plant those cover crops in the fall to provide winter cover for soil that otherwise would be bare. The USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey says over the past ten years, fall cover crop adoption has continued to grow. On fields growing corn for grain, 0.6 percent of the acreage used a fall cover crop before the 2010 crop.
By 2016, 5.5 percent of the corn-for-grain acreage had a preceding fall cover, and by 2021, 7.9 percent of corn-for-grain acreage followed a fall cover crop. This represents a 44 percent increase in fall cover crop adoption on corn-for-grain fields between 2016 and 2021.
The growth in the adoption of cover crops on cotton fields is similar, with a 46 percent increase between 2015 and 2019.