Cover crops have taken off in Iowa over the years, but there are lingering questions about how to best incorporate the practice on rented farmland. Who pays for the practice? What are the short- and long-term benefits and costs to consider? How do you capture the arrangement in a farm lease?
Charles Brown joined us this week in our monthly Iowa Learning Farm webinar series to cover frequently asked questions about cover crops as part of a farm lease arrangement. He shared his unique perspective as both an Iowa State University Extension Farm Management Specialist and as a farmer himself who uses cover crops in Wapello County.
Why Add Cover Crops to Your Farmland?
Cover crops are an important tool to help reduce soil erosion and nutrient losses while also improving soil health. On rented land, questions arise about how to account for short-term costs for cover crop seed and application and the long-term benefits to the land. Charles shared some of his experiences as a farmer in Wapello County, including his yield bump he has experienced with corn following cover crops in 2017.
“Adjoining fields or fields within a half mile made 95 bushel to the acre, 110 and 130. That field made 170. Now whether that’s because of the cover crops, no-till, was I just luckier than the rest of them, I don’t know. It’s probably a combination of all of those things.”
“I have not seen any yield reduction because of using cover crops. As a matter of fact, I’d probably say the opposite in my experience over the past five years.”
What Should You Consider When Writing a Farm Lease with Cover Crops?
Charles recommended looking at the most recent 2018 Cash Rental Survey from Ag Decision Maker for average cash rental rates in your area. In addition:
- Use written leases over verbal agreements
- Farm land according to conservation plan (often on file at FSA office)
- Landlord should receive a copy of production records, fertilizer invoices and soil tests when they are taken each year to make decisions about land productivity and maintenance
Refer to the webinar for specific recommendations and best practices. More information is included about how to handle the cost of seeding cover crops, whether to reduce the rent to share the costs and other considerations.
Here are links to a few resources that Charles mentioned during the webinar.
- Ag Decision Maker: 2018 Cash Rental Survey
- Ag Decision Maker: Short and Long Form Farm Lease Form (Under Leasing Forms)
- Ag Decision Maker: Conservation Practices for Landlords
- Nature Conservancy: Sample Cover Crop Lease Insertion
Watch the archived version of the webinar now! There is great information for landlords, tenants and anyone who works in the industry.