DES MOINES - Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey Wednesday announced that 117 Iowa farmers took advantage of changes this year to the Iowa Financial Incentives Program, which is commonly called state cost share, to install 4,660 acres of cover crops across the state.
"We are excited about the initial response we received to this new effort to encourage the use of cover crops and hope it is the start of many more farmers looking at and using this conservation practice," Northey said. "We have seen a lot of growing interest in cover crops and with the drought and early harvest this year it was a good opportunity for farmers to try them on their farm."
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship made the rule change in August that included cover crops as an eligible practice under the state cost share program. Through the program Iowa provided up to $25 per acre for the establishment of the cover crop.
In total the Department's $104,253 investment was matched by farmers and landowners in 24 different Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state.
Research has shown that cover crops can be an effective management tool to control erosion from wind and water and ties up the nitrogen in the soil and reduces the potential for nitrate to leach into our surface waters and ground waters.
Nitrate transport to streams can be particularly high after a drought period, when stressed crops may not have used all available fertilizer, or in times of excessive moisture.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) also provided assistance for cover crops and has seen tremendous growth in recent years. This year they provide assistance to support cover crops on 51,635 acres in Iowa, up from 4,059 acres in 2009.