New Project Looks at Economics of Cover Crops

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Cover crops typically appear on one side of the balance sheet as an expense—but what about the benefits of reduced soil erosion and nutrient loss or feed value of grazing or harvesting cover crops for livestock?

The Iowa Learning Farms newest project aims to estimate the value of soil erosion reduction by cover crops in a corn and soybean cropping system and evaluate the economic impact of using cover crops as a feed source in a livestock system.

The project has two main components:

Part A will update the “Value of Soil Erosion to the Landowner” publication written by Mike Duffy, ISU economics professor emeritus. The publication looks at 20 Iowa counties, with at least two from each crop reporting district. Then using modeling software, scenarios will be run to estimate the impact on cover crops on reducing erosion for each county.  Using the value of soil erosion and the amount of erosion reduced, an estimate of the economic benefit of using cover crops can be determined.

Part B will estimate cover crop biomass yield and feedstock value in a livestock operation for the major livestock regions of the state. Case studies for forage in a feedlot and grazing systems will be created and compared to other typical feed sources.

Farmer interviews will be conducted to help gather input for the case studies for both parts of the study.  We will keep you posted as outreach publications and other materials are completed, so be sure to subscribe to the Iowa Learning Farms newsletter.

Liz Juchems

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