MDA Announces Record Cover Crop Planting by Maryland Farmers
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance today announced that Maryland farmers participating in the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) 2014-2015 Cover Crop Program planted a record 478,000 acres of cover crops on their fields last fall to control soil erosion, reduce nutrient runoff and protect water quality in streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. The 2014 cover crop planting is the largest in Maryland history, exceeding the previous record of 430,000 acres in 2012.
Maryland farmers exceeded the Phase I and II Watershed Implementation Plan milestone for cover crops in 2011 and 2013 and with this planting, have exceeded the milestone commitment for 2015.
“Maryland farmers have planted more than 400,000 acres of cover crops for the past five years, which is one of the most-cost-effective ways to keep nitrogen and phosphorus from entering the Bay and its tributaries,” said Secretary Hance. “Many people talk about protecting the Chesapeake Bay, but Maryland farmers are actually implementing practices that are helping to achieve our goals.”
Cover crops are widely considered to be one of the most environmentally sustainable ways to protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Collectively, the 478,000 acres of cover crops planted will prevent an estimated 2.9 million pounds of nitrogen, and 95,600 pounds of phosphorus from impacting waterways.
“Farmers have gained confidence in a strong cover crop program with consistent funding from year to year, making it possible for them plan ahead and include cover crops as part of their normal cropping system,” Hance said.
MDA provides grants to farmers who plant small grains such as wheat, rye or barley, or brassicas (plants in the cabbage family) on their fields following the fall harvest. Grants help offset seed, labor and equipment costs associated with planting cover crops. Once established, cover crops recycle unused plant nutrients remaining in the soil from the previous summer crop, protect fields against wind and water erosion over the winter, and help improve the soil for the next year’s crop.
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 Maryland’s nutrient management regulations. The sign up period for the 2015-2016 MACS Cover Crop Program will take place in June 2015. Farmers should check the MDA website for updates .