Maryland Department of Agriculture Announces 2018-2019 Cover Crop Sign-Up
ANNAPOLIS, MD – The annual sign-up period for Maryland Department of Agriculture’s cover crop program will take place June 21 – July 17 at soil conservation district offices statewide. This popular grant program provides farmers with cost-share assistance to offset seed, labor, and equipment costs to plant cover crops on their fields this fall to control soil erosion, reduce nutrient runoff, build healthy soils, and protect water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Governor Larry Hogan has allocated approximately $22.5 million for Maryland’s 2018-2019 Cover Crop Program.
“Planting cover crops this fall is a great way to recycle or scavenge any nutrients that were not used by corn and other cash crops by the end of the growing season,” said Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder. “To give farmers more planting options, several new small grain/legume cover crop mixes were approved for payment this year. I urge farmers to take advantage of our popular cover crop program.”
Cover crops help protect waterways from nutrient runoff, control soil erosion, and improve soil health. As they grow, cover crops recycle unused plant nutrients remaining in the soil from the preceding summer crop. Once established, they work all winter to protect fields against erosion spurred on by wind, rain, snow, and ice. In addition to their water quality benefits, cover crops help build healthy soils, increase organic matter in the soil, reduce weeds and pests, and provide habitat for beneficial insects. They can even help farm fields recover more quickly from drought and extreme rainfall. Studies have shown that planting cover crops in the fall can increase yields of cash crops like corn and soybeans after only a few years.
Maryland’s Cover Crop Program provides grants to farmers who plant small grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and oats, brassicas, and forage radish on their fields following the fall harvest. To help create diversity, eligible cover crop species may be mixed with radish and legumes including clover, Austrian winter peas and hairy vetch using a variety of two and three-species mixes.
Cover crops cost-shared through this program receive a base rate of $45/acre and up to $30/acre in add on incentives for planting early and using other highly valued planting practices. The aerial seeding deadline is October 7. Maryland’s nutrient management regulations require farmers to plant cover crops to help protect water quality when organic nutrient sources are applied to fields in the fall. Double-crop soybeans may be planted aerially at a reduced reimbursement rate and farmers may harvest their cover crops, but payment for this option is no longer offered. Program eligibility requires that the farm has a current nutrient management plan.
Maryland’s Cover Crop Program is administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the state’s 24 soil conservation districts through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. Applicants must be in good standing with MACS and in compliance with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations. Other restrictions and conditions apply. Funding is provided by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. For more information, farmers should check their mailboxes for announcements or visit the department’s website.
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