Cost Benefits of Cover Crop and No Till

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BMP costs

Table showing the cost benefits of implementing cover crops with no till in acres/year.

BMP cost assumptions

Assumptions used to calculate cost benefits in the Table above.

The table below outlines the costs and savings per acre, per year, that farmers will experience when implementing cover crops continuously over multiple years.  It was assumed that 1/3 of the time farmers were planting corn and during the rest of the time, soybeans were planted. In the table below, Item 1.) estimates how much money is washing off your fields due to nitrogen and phosphorus runoff.  As you can see cover crops don’t eliminate nutrient runoff, but they do reduce it.    Item 2.) Shows the typical cost of implementing cover crops, assuming multiple different species and species mixes will be used over the years.  Item 3.) shows a conservative estimate of the fertilizer savings since cover crops supply some of the nitrogen and help make nutrients more available to your cash crops.  Item 4.) shows the return on the increased crop yield due to the improvements in soil health made by having cover crops planted for multiple years.  Item 5.) Overall, a farmer can expect to make an average of $37.04/acre/year if practicing cover crops and no till over multiple years.  This does not include the benefits of reducing fertilizer and soil loading downstream, which can cost the public to dredge and maintain lakes and drainages, not to mention the increased cost of treating drinking water and wastewater that are high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment.  Item #6.) Farms utilizing these best management practices can reduce the costs of dealing with high nutrient and sediment loads downstream by 53%.

Mention of trade names, products, or services does not convey, and should not be interpreted as conveying, official U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval, endorsement, or recommendation.
The results expressed herein are strictly the opinion of the authors and in no manner represent or reflect current or planned policy by the EPA.  They are part of a larger effort that has not has not been subject to EPA review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of EPA.  These results may change once the larger effort is subject to EPA review.

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