Could the benefits of using cover crops outweigh the initial and ongoing costs? One Hamilton County farmer believes it can. Rodney Rulon farms with his cousins in Arcadia, Indiana. They’ve been no-till since the early 90s and have been doing cover crops for the past 15 years.
“We’re running an average of 3.5 bushel soybeans where we have a cover crop, versus where we don’t, increase over the whole life of the test; over four soybean crops. We’re looking at around 10 bushel of corn over the life of that test that we’re seeing average benefit over that four corn crops.”
That initial cost is what scares some growers away from getting started with cover crops and improving their soil health, but Rulon says, “It doesn’t have to be a big investment. There are programs. I know around us there are a couple different watershed programs that will help cover the cost of the seed. There are NRCS and Soil and Water programs that will help with that. So, if you go and you talk to your Soil and Water and your NRCS representatives, I imagine they’re going to be able to figure out a way to help you with the dollars and cents of getting it done and getting it out there and trying it.
Rulon adds that it doesn’t take a lot to try a little, suggesting you start small and track your data to see what works best for you.
State Conservationist Jerry Raynor agreed. He says to get started, “Visit your local Soil and Water Conservation District office. Visit the websites for your county offices, I know they have links there as well, and USDA NRCS. farmers.gov is a great place to start.”
Rulon and Raynor both appeared on the HAT Soil Health Podcast that is available now here or anywhere you download podcasts.