As we approach the end of the growing season here in South Florida, now can be a good time to think about planting summer cover crops. University of Florida researcher, Dr. Danielle Treadwell, shares that there is currently a real need to hear from Florida growers about cover crop use and benefits, as well as limitations and barriers to use. According to the 2017 National Cover Crop Survey, cover crop acreages continued to increase steadily, to an average of 400 acres per participant. Benefits noted by farmers included soil health, improved yield consistency, and modest yield gains, for properly managed cover crops. Responses from farmers who do not use cover crops also help identify factors that limit adoption of cover cropping. Cover crop benefits have been well-documented in many systems, and they are considered a Best Management Practice here in Florida to prevent sediment loss from fields. We are continuing to learn more about cover crop use and benefits in our state.
Call for Farmer Input
2020 National Cover Crop Survey
If you haven’t already, please consider making your voice heard through participation in the 2020 National Cover Crop Survey, even if you do not currently work with cover crops. Farmers have until April 12th, 2020 to participate in the survey, which can be completed online here: https://bit.ly/CCSurvey2020. The survey only takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and participants who fill out the survey can enter a drawing for Visa gift cards worth $100 and $200.
The 2020 National Cover Crop Survey will be the sixth national cover crop survey, seeking to understand why and how farmers use cover crops and why some don’t. The survey is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, in partnership with the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). State and federal agencies use the National Cover Crop Survey data to inform their policy and programs.
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According to Dr. Treadwell, one of the factors contributing to farmers’ success with cover crops is the availability of a mentor with expertise and experience in cover cropping. Dr. Treadwell and other University of Florida specialists with cover crop expertise are offering to assist farmers and County Extension agents in creating individualized farm plans for phasing in cover crops, starting small at first with cover crops likely to be of most benefit, based on goals identified by the farmer (nitrogen supplementation, nematode/weed management, soil health, holding more moisture in the soil, reducing erosion, etc.). If you’d like to learn more about developing a cover crop plan for your farm, please reach out to Dr. Treadwell (email@example.com) or your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent. You can also find information on the University of Florida’s EDIS cover crop topic page, the SARE cover crop topic room, and the USDA NRCS website.
SARE released a series of 24 videos from farmers across the US, who are innovating with cover crops. Some of these farmers are right here in Florida, such as John Bitter of Frog Song Organics in Hawthorne. To view select videos, click the playlist drop-down in the top-right corner of the window below (Note: you may have to hover your cursor over the top part of the video window to have the menu appear).