A study has found the majority of Ontario farmers growing cover crops are observing benefits from them, a Dec. 7 news release from Grain Farmers of Ontario says.
The study was done by researchers at the University of Manitoba working in collaboration with the Ontario Cover Crop Steering Committee. Farmers were served in 2020 about their cover cropping habits. With 731 farmers responding it was the largest survey of its kind in Canada.
Of the 520 respondents who grew cover crops in 2020, 91 per cent observed benefits from growing cover crops. The observations include:
- 68 per cent of farms saw improved soil health
- 59 per cent observed less soil erosion
- 57 per cent reported seeing increased soil organic matter
More than three quarters of farms reported benefits within three years of adopting cover crops, the release notes.
The study did show some challenges in adopting cover crops. The most common challenges include poor cover crop establishment, the late harvest of a cash crop preventing cover crop planting, and the additional costs associated with growing a cover crop.
The 2020 Ontario Cover Crop Feedback project was developed to provide information to farmers, agronomists, researchers, policy makers, and government organizations that will play an important role in the future of cover crops in Ontario, the release says.
The project was a voluntary online survey of Ontario farms, targeting both farms that did and did not grow cover crops during the 2020 growing season. Farms of all types and sizes in Ontario were invited to take part. A variety of questions were asked to farmers who grew and did not grow cover crops. Both groups were asked about farm characteristics, motivations, what would enable cover crop use, and where farms source information.