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Survey Shows Yield Increase with Cover Crop Use

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Farmers who used cover crops saw an increase in yields in 2012, according to a new survey.

That survey shows an increasing number of farmers are using cover crops in the fall and winter months as a way to improve soil and field conditions, especially with the dry conditions hitting the state.

However, some farmers express concern that cover crops will impair yields of cash crops such as corn and soybeans by competing for water. This latest study finds that this should not be a concern however, because cover crops conserve water and help farmers adapt to changing climate patterns.

Cover crops typically include: crimson clover, hairy vetch, tillage radishes, oats and winter rye.

According to the survey, during the fall of 2012, corn fields following cover crops had a 9.6 percent increase in yield compared to side-by-side fields with no cover crops. Likewise, soybean yields were improved 11.6 percent following cover crops.

In the hardest hit drought areas, yield differences were even larger, with an 11 percent yield increase for corn and a 14.3 percent increase for soybeans.

The survey was conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

Most respondents farm in the Mississippi River Basin.

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