From break crops and livestock grazing to vineyards and wildlife habitats, the popularity of cover crops' diverse uses and benefits are expanding.

“Currently, an estimated 50,000 agricultural producers in the US are using cover crops in their systems – a figure which is projected to double by 2025 with potentially 40-50 million acres in production,” said Robert Myers, University of Missouri associate plant sciences professor.

At a recent 2-day meeting organized by forage and cover crop company Grassland Oregon, Myers indicated that the USDA-SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) program is supportive of Western organizations working together on formation of a Western Cover Crop Council (WCCC).

“Cover Crop Councils exist to coordinate educational efforts, develop strategies and discuss means and methods to collectively improve agriculture. In essence, they keep the momentum surrounding soil health moving forward,” said Jerry Hall, director of research for Grassland Oregon. “The Western region of the U.S. is the only region presently lacking a Cover Crop Council. Grassland Oregon felt it was critical to have the entire U.S. represented and engaged. We are pleased to work with SARE, universities and agencies, and representatives of other private organizations to catalyze the formation of a Western Cover Crop Council.”

During the event, cover crop tour attendants, which included producers and representatives from conservation groups, universities and seed companies, learned about the differences between cover crop species and the difference between varieties within species. 

“It’s important that we move past speaking of species only and start talking about varieties,” shared Hall. “We’ve made great strides in breeding varieties with significant improvements such as increasing Nitrogen contribution and cold tolerance. These advancements provide powerful new tools to farmers who expect performance and consistent results. When recommending cover crop species – varieties make a huge difference.”