Maryland farmers planted almost 560,000 acres of cover crops last fall, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
As a result, the state broke the previous record of 501,204 acres of cover crops being planted, as more farmers take advantage of the cost benefits associated with these crops.
Once cover crops are established, they can protect fields from erosion caused by the elements during the winter. With the 560,000 acres planted, Maryland will reportedly be able to prevent 3.36 million pounds of nitrogen and 112,000 pounds of phosphorous from reaching waterways.
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency established limits for how much sediment can enter the Chesapeake Bay back in 2010. Cover crops can protect water quality by recycling plant nutrients.
“Over the last several years, our cover crop program has really taken off as more and more farmers reap the agronomic and environmental benefits of including these hardworking crops in their planting rotations,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “For a second year, farmers have exceeded 500,000 acres planted. For the past seven years, farmers have consistently exceeded the Bay milestone goal for this important best management practice.”
Maryland has also established a cover crop program, which provides grants to farmers who plant small grains, such as rye or barley, after the fall harvest. Grains can offset the seed, labor, and equipment costs that come with planting cover crops.