Record Cover Crop Acreage Planted by Md. Farmers

ANNAPOLIS (January 31, 2011) — Governor Martin O’Malley today announces that Maryland farmers participating in the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Cover Crop Program planted a record 398,679 acres of cover crops on their farms last fall to control soil erosion, reduce nutrient runoff and protect water quality in streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. The 2010 cover crop planting is the largest in Maryland history and exceeds Maryland’s 2011 Bay cleanup goal by 20 percent.

“Our farmers continue to show their leadership in the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts by planting a record number of acres of cover crops, exceeding their two-year goal by 20 percent,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Cover crops are the workhorse of our Bay restoration efforts. Maryland is committed to achieving our Bay restoration goals by 2020, five years ahead of any other state in the watershed. The fact that farmers exceeded their goal and helped us get 60 percent of the way toward our overall two-year goal across all sectors shows that we can get reach our early target. I thank all farmers who planted cover crops and encourage those who have not yet done so to enroll next year.”

Cover crops are widely considered to be one of the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable ways to control soil erosion and reduce nutrient runoff in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries over the winter. Collectively, the 398,679 acres of cover crops planted will prevent an estimated 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen, which is 60 percent of our overall two year milestone goal, and 80,000 pounds of phosphorus from potentially impacting the Bay and its tributaries.

“The weather conditions were perfect this year for farmers to plant cover crops,” said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “Thanks to Governor O’Malley’s commitment to the cover crop program, farmers can count on a strong program with consistent funding from year to year, making it possible for them plan ahead and include cover crops a part of their normal cropping system.”

Farmers plant cover crops in the fall, following the harvest of summer crops such as corn, soybeans and vegetables. Rye, wheat, barley and other “cereal grains” are planted as cover crops because they continue to grow in cool weather, eventually becoming the lush green fields that checker an otherwise barren rural, winter landscape. Once established, cover crops recycle mobile or unused plant nutrients remaining in the soil from the previous summer crop, protect fields against wind and water erosion, and help improve the soil for the next year’s crop.

Farmers enrolled in the cover crop program receive payments to cover their planting costs for this core Bay restoration practice, which are not recovered by the sale of the crop. The use of manure and fertilizer is restricted.

Maryland’s Cover Crop Program is administered by MDA and the state’s 24 soil conservation districts through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. It is funded by the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. Applicants must be in good standing with MACS to participate and must be in compliance with the Nutrient Management Program. The sign up period for the 2011-2012 MACS Cover Crop Program will take place early this summer.

Source: Maryland Department of Agriculture

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