Online Tool Determines Cover Crop ROI

Cover Crop ( Sonja Begemann )

Farmers will be able to easily calculate return on investment for cover crops with a new online tool. It will help farmers decide whether or not cover crops work for their operation.

Iowa State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) recently constructed a tool that helps farmers who don’t use cover crop evaluate the economics of cover crops. The tool is a result of research funded by the north central region of SARE.

The tool shows farmers’ estimated annual net returns of cover crops under a variety of scenarios. This information can also help serve as a benchmark for farmers who use cover crops and want to improve ROI.

“The rate of adoption of cover crops in Iowa is low due to a variety of reason, including thin windows of opportunity to plant due to weather, uncertainty associated with adoption of new practices and low corn and soybean prices that limit the ability of farmers to use their own resources in conversation practices,” said Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor of economics and Extension at ISU in a recent press release.

Only 3% of Iowa’s farmland uses cover crops. Plastina led the study that found the average farmers in the sample incurred losses when using cover crops even after accounting for cost-share payments. Researchers do note that some farmers do profit from cover crops, but they didn’t represent the majority in this study.

“Uncertainty about the net returns to cover crops has been a major barrier to adoption, and this new tool is intended to help farmers evaluate their own net returns and reduce uncertainty,” Plastina added. He hopes the tool will help farmers identify ways to make cover crops profitable in their operations.

The tool was created in Iowa but can be used in any U.S. state. “Since the tool allows the user to create his or her own scenario using their own data it can be used by any farmer in the U.S. to evaluate the net returns to cover crops in a corn-soybean rotation,” he says.

Click here to see the tool.