NSAC's Blog

SARE Cover Crop Survey Seeks Farmers Input

March 31, 2016

Cover crop "field day" with USDA staff in California. Photo credit: USDA

Cover crop “field day” with USDA staff in California. Photo credit: USDA

The Sustainable Agricultural, Research, and Education Program (SARE) in conjunction with the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) are seeking responses to their fourth annual national cover crop survey. Whether you are a long-time cover cropper, new to the use of cover crops, or never even considered the practice, SARE needs to hear from you.

Results from the annual survey are used to guide research, policy, and education on the use of cover crops. We believe, along with SARE, that the most effective way to do this is to get the information directly from farmers. Even if you’ve never used cover crops, you can let SARE know about any concerns you have about the practice, what additional information you would want to know, and what kinds of benefits you look for in conservation practices. All information provided is completely anonymous and helps agencies like SARE to better serve farmers.

The survey can be completed here, it takes less than 15 minutes and participants will be automatically entered to win a $100 gift card in exchange for their time.

SARE has been helping farmers and researchers study cover crops for more than two decades and is the leading provider of free cover crop resources for farmers who want to learn about conservation practices. Their cover crop publication Managing Cover Crop Profitably, is one of its most popular publications and is now in its third edition.

The SARE survey has already provided years of important information about the use of cover crops, which has been critical to refining cover-cropping techniques and developing methodologies that are best suited for diverse climates and conditions. The information from this survey also provides the basis for efforts to expand cover crop use across the country.

Last year’s survey, for instance, found that planting cover crops had resulted in increased yields, among other benefits, for farmers in the years following their use. According to the survey data, when a cover crop was planted before corn, corn yields increased by an average of 3.7 bushels per acre, or 2.1 percent. Farmers who planted a cover crop before planting soybeans saw an average soybean yield increase of 2.2 bushels per acre, or 4.2 percent.

A previous survey revealed that during the drought of 2012 farmers that had used cover crops experienced higher yields than those that did not, saving much-needed revenue during a tough economic time.

Without the information provided by surveys like this one, it is harder to quantify the benefits of cover crops and promote their use. For farmers who are unsure about whether or not cover crops are the right choice for them, this survey can provide valuable, trustworthy insights.

What is SARE?

SARE is a competitive research and outreach program that advances sustainable agriculture across the whole of American agriculture. Successful SARE grantees are producers, researchers, nonprofit organizations, and educators engaged in projects that simultaneously address the “three Ps” of sustainability:

  • Profit over the long term;
  • Protection of the land and water; and
  • People (communities) who depend on agriculture.

SARE is administered through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and is run by four regional councils of producers, researchers, educators, and government representatives that set SARE policy and make grants.

In addition to research, SARE also conducts education and extension programs in an effort to increase knowledge about – and help farmers and ranchers adopt – sustainable farming practices. SARE has produced several helpful conservation resource guides including: Cover Cropping for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects and Cover Crops for Sustainable Crop Rotations. SARE Outreach regularly produces and distributes practical information based on the program’s over 25 years of research results.

Find out more in NSAC’s Grass Roots Guide.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Research, Education & Extension

4 responses to “SARE Cover Crop Survey Seeks Farmers Input”

  1. Island Farm says:

    We are a group of farmers growing on small pieces of land/have been using Dutch White Clover as a living mulch for peppers/ using clover , alfalfa, and a commercial mix of nitrogen fixers as cover crops or in new beds. We don’t have any large equipment so we find we have to smother some in the late winter because they have not winter-killed. The alfalfa we use to hold the shape, sides, etc of slopes and swales. The peppers grown in clover were outstanding. An interplanting of clover in the strawberry bed produced lush growth but made it hard for us and the birds to find the fruit- looking for a clover that hugs the ground and will either die off in the winter or be a permanent mulch.

  2. I am wondering if you do anything about getting urban dwellers to consider composting kitchen waste at source rather than trucking miles to a landfill.

  3. Reana Kovalcik says:

    Thanks for your feedback! We hope you’ll submit valuable info like this to the SARE survey as well!

  4. Reana Kovalcik says:

    Hi Russ,

    We do not currently have projects focused on urban areas, but we do work to support programs that bolster composting as part of conservation projects on working lands.