Governor O’Malley Announces Record Cover Crop Acreage Planted by Maryland Farmers
ANNAPOLIS, MD (Feb. 21, 2012) – Governor Martin O’Malley today announces that Maryland farmers participating in the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Cover Crop Program planted a record 429,818 acres of cover crops on their farms this past fall to control soil erosion, reduce nutrient runoff and protect water quality in streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. The 2011 cover crop planting is the largest in Maryland history and exceeds Maryland’s 2013 Chesapeake Bay milestone goal by 21 percent.
“Our farmers continue to show their leadership in the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts by planting a record number of acres of cover crops, exceeding their two-year goal by 21 percent,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Cover crops are the workhorse of our Bay restoration efforts. I thank all farmers who planted cover crops and especially encourage those who did not participate to enroll in the program this summer.”
Cover crops are widely considered to be one of the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable ways to control soil erosion and reduce nutrient runoff in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries during the winter. Collectively, the 429,818 acres of cover crops planted will prevent an estimated 2.58 million pounds of nitrogen, which is 60 percent of our overall two year milestone goal, and 86,000 pounds of phosphorus from potentially impacting the Bay and its tributaries.
“Thanks to Governor O’Malley’s commitment to the cover crop program, farmers can count on a strong program with consistent funding from year to year, making it possible for them plan ahead and include cover crops a part of their normal cropping system,” said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance.
Farmers plant cover crops in the fall, following the harvest of summer crops such as corn, soybeans and vegetables. Rye, wheat, barley and other “cereal grains” are planted as cover crops because they continue to grow in cool weather, eventually becoming the lush green fields that checker an otherwise barren rural, winter landscape. As they grow, cover crops recycle unused plant nutrients remaining in the soil from the previous summer crop, protect fields against wind and water erosion, and help improve the soil for the next year’s crop.
The use of manure and fertilizer is restricted on acres enrolled in Maryland’s cover crop program.
Maryland’s Cover Crop Program is administered by MDA and the state’s 24 soil conservation districts through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. It is funded by the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. Applicants must be in good standing with MACS to participate and must be in compliance with the Nutrient Management Program. The sign up period for the 2012-2013 MACS Cover Crop Program will take place early this summer.