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Wheat

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Just over half of the nation's largest farms said they planted cover crops in 2017, showing increased acceptance of the practice's benefits for soil health and water retention, according to a newly released Agriculture Department survey of 400 producers with production worth at least $500,000 a year (putting them in the top 7.4 percent of farms). Here are some takeaways from the poll:

  • In 2017, farmers reported planting 15.4 million acres of cover crops, a 50% increase from 2012.
  • 81% of growers with cover crops said the practice improved soil health and crop yields. One in seven said it improved soil health but not crop yields.
  • 48% of farmers polled said they abandoned cover crops in the past or have never planted them before.
  • Field-level surveys of crop fields found that expanded adoption of cover crops is highest on fields that include corn silage in the rotation and lowest on fields that include wheat.
  • In 2018, about one-third of the acreage planted with a cover crop received a financial assistance payment from either federal, state, or other programs that support cover-crop planting.
  • Most of the farmers who planted cover crops were fairly new to the practice. Half the farms with cover crops reported doing so for five years or less, and on 25% or less of their land. Only one-fourth of the growers who plant cover crops had done so for more than 10 years.

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