Saving Soil, Nutrients and Money with Cover Crops

Melissa SandfortAgribusiness, Nutrient Management

Oregon State University (OSU) Extension specialists have spent six years studying the role cover crops play in fertility management, to the benefit of hundreds of farmers in the highly productive Willamette Valley. To date, the OSU researchers’ main contribution is a calculator for estimating the cost and nitrogen (N) contribution of cover crops, compost, and organic and synthetic fertilizers. The calculator has been used by more than 620 people since 2010, representing more than 52,000 acres.

The profit potential from cover crops’ role in nutrient management is immense: In one trial, the OSU researchers found a vetch cover crop could replace 110 pounds per acre of feather meal for a broccoli crop, leading to a cost saving of $500 per acre.

This research was supported by two Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grants, and is only one example of how SARE is at the forefront of supporting the innovative producers, educators and researchers who are making cover crops one of the most indispensible cost-saving tools in the soil-health toolbox.

This only scratches the surface of the hundreds of research and on-farm demonstration projects SARE has supported on cover crops in the last 25 years. To discover more, and to find the practical tools and guides arising from such projects, visit SARE’s Cover Crops Topic Room.