The Economics of Cover Crops

A new tool helps farmers calculate the financial benefits of adding cover crops to their growing rotations.

  • Cover crops serve a variety of soil-enriching and environment-supporting purposes.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/littleny

A new online tool from the Practical Farmers of Iowa is designed to show farmers how much of a financial benefit cover crops can offer. Called “Economics of Cover Crops,” the tool provides three in-depth budgeting spreadsheets to help farmers explore the advantages of incorporating cover crops.

The central motive for creating this tool was to help farmers accurately assess the value of cover cropping, particularly when the crops are used as animal forage. The worksheets consider the costs and benefits of both using fabric row cover and grazing cover crops to compare the impact of each option. This lets farmers calculate the real economic value of either choice for their operations. While many farmers are concerned about the financial ramifications of pulling parts of their fields out of production, research shows that properly managed cover crops can lead to higher profits after just one year.

Practical Farmers of Iowa aims to help producers improve their soil, diversify their business interests, and maintain autonomy against industrial agriculture corporations. The tool’s creators hope land-grant universities, agricultural economists, and other agrarian professionals will also use it in their work and outreach, helping to promote the use of cover crops for profitability and sustainability.

You can find the worksheets online by searching for “economics of cover crops” on the Iowa State University Extension website.  



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