Ashland SWCD’S Cover Crop Cost Share Sign Up Underway; Sign up deadline July 3
Across Ashland County this spring, evidence of soil erosion can be seen where gullies and washouts appeared in farm fields after heavy rains. Even as those gullies were filled to prepare for spring planting, the topsoil washed away with the rain was gone.
Experts say it takes 500 years for a new inch of topsoil to form – and that topsoil is what enables American farmers to provide us with the most abundant, affordable food supply in the world. That’s why Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District is partnering with the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District to once again offer a cover crop cost share program for Ashland County farmers.
“Farmers play a vital role in protecting the soil and water resources of Ashland County, and it’s our role to help them implement programs and practices to help achieve that goal,” said Erica White, district technician at Ashland SWCD. “In a single year, the Ashland SWCD-MWCD cover crop program prevented the erosion of approximately 5,000 tons of topsoil into local waterways. That plays a huge role, not only in improving soil health, but also in protecting the water quality of our local streams and rivers.”
Cover crops are a great tool to prevent erosion, build organic matter and improve soil health. By putting a growing crop in place after harvest of farmers’ primary cash crop, the active plant system helps protect the soil by using the plant’s root systems to hold the soil in place, and it improves soil health by reducing compaction and increasing organic matter at the same time.
And farmers are getting the message; last year participation in the cover crop cost share program was up over 38 percent – and White expects to see even more growth in the program this year as the SWCD offers an aerial application program for the first time.
“We understand the challenges of getting a cover crop on the ground during harvest – especially with the heavy rain patterns we’ve experienced over the last few years,” White said. “So this year, we’re offering to coordinate aerial cover crop seeding out of the Ashland County Airport – and that part of the program is available to all of our Ashland County farmers, whether they participate in our cost share program or not.”
This year’s cover crop cost share program accepts applications from farmers interested in planting cover crops on their farms and provides a $12/acre cost-share for up to 200 acres per farmer that are accepted into the program. First-time participants accepted into the program will receive an additional $3/acre. Applicants are ranked based on a number of factors, including slope of the field, crop use, and other management decisions.
Also new this year, 600 of Ashland County’s highest scoring acres will be eligible for a pilot program with additional cost-share incentives based on management decisions. All acres accepted into the pilot program will receive $15/acre cost share with an additional $5/acre incentive for cover crops planted by the end of September.
For 2018, Ashland SWCD will also be awarding local priority points to producers who plant an overwintering cover crop, such as wheat, barley or rye to ensure maximum growth and erosion control potential. Local points will also be awarded to fields that be planted through aerial or broadcast application.
Interested farmers and landowners can contact White at the Ashland SWCD office for more information at 419-281-7645.