Governor O’Malley Announces Cover Crop Acreage Exceeds Chesapeake Bay Milestone Goal by 17 Percent

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Martin O’Malley today announced that Maryland farmers participating in the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Cover Crop Program planted over 414,000 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 2012 cover crop exceeds Maryland’s 2013 Milestone commitment by 17 percent.

“We are working with Maryland’s farmers to protect family farms and agriculture jobs, and to keep family farming profitable. Our farmers continue to show their leadership in the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts by exceeding cover crop planting commitments,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Cover crops are the workhorse of our Bay restoration efforts. I thank all farmers who planted cover crops – especially the 100 plus farmers who are new to the program this year.  I encourage those who did not participate to enroll in the program for next year.”

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 414,000 acres of cover crops planted will prevent an estimated 2.48 million pounds of nitrogen, and 82,800 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. “We commend and thank all farmers who, together, have planted more than 414,000 acres of as part of the Cover Crop Program to protect our soil and water by taking up any remaining nutrients and preventing soil erosion over the winter.  This is just one best management practice being implemented by farmers from a list of over 30 BMPs included in Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to protect and restore the Bay by 2015. ”

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 the 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 top counties ranked by certified acreage planted:

  • Kent                       48,091
  • Talbot                    47,496
  • Queen Anne’s        45,388
  • Caroline                 33,614
  • Dorchester             32,200
  • Frederick               30,795

A breakdown by county of acreage planted is available online at:  www.mda.maryland.gov/pdf/fy13ccplantedacres.pdf

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 2013-2014 MACS Cover Crop Program will take place early this summer.

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