APR 01, 2023 10:00 AM PDT

Cover Crops Protect Cash Crops, Farmers

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

A changing climate means more erratic weather patterns, including a higher risk of flooding events. Farmers, in particular, face several challenges from climate change, such as an increased risk of flooding that can make it harder to grow certain crops. Currently, federal insurance programs exist to help farmers avoid some of the losses that can occur when severe flooding makes important cash crops unharvestable, reimbursing farmers for all costs up to the point of being unable to harvest the crop.

According to a team of researchers at North Carolina State University recently conducted a study that may have found a way to help farmers protect their crops from losses due to severe weather, particularly cash crops that provide income to farmers. The solution? Cover crops, which could help remove excessive moisture and make the ground ready for planting cash crops when the time is right. Researchers describe the results from the study in a recent article published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

As part of their study, researchers collected data about cover crop planting, data about crop insurance, and weather patterns covering roughly 12 states in the corn belt between 2005 and 2016. The corn belt region general stretches as far east as Kansas, as far west as Ohio, and roughly into Missouri and Kentucky.

Overall, researchers found that in areas where there was more cover crop planting, there was a much lower rate of losses noted by crop insurances; in fact, just a 1% increase in cash crop planting could yield nearly $40 million in incurred losses. Researchers believe that because cover crops can help remove excess moisture from soil, this could have helped prevent the loss of cash crops. The team also noted that long term planting of cover crops may helped create sustainable soil for planting.

Currently, only 4% of farmers nationally use cover crops, often because of costs of planting and removing these crops seems like less of an important investment. This new research suggests that planting cover crops could be a powerful investment for protecting cash crops.

Sources: Eurkealert!; American Journal of Agricultural Economics

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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