During the last two years, Illinois farmers have increased use of cover crops by nearly 100%, according to National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey results.

In 2017, Illinois farmers planted 710,000 acres of cover crops, while they planted 1.4 million acres last year. The acres include corn and soybeans planted on tiled and nontiled ground. The numbers reflect survey results from 1,097 farmers who plant more than 100 acres, but less than 5,000 acres.

Illinois cover crop adoption nearly doubles

(Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

“NREC (Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council) research has been focused on providing science-based recommendations to farmers on practices that can address nutrient loss concerns while maintaining crop production,” said Jeff Kirwan, NREC chairman and Illinois Farm Bureau District 3 director. “We know that cover crop research is important and are pleased to see the increased awareness and adoption of this practice.”

The NASS survey also measures awareness and knowledge of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) and best management practices. The results showed two-thirds of farmers were at least somewhat knowledgeable of cover crop management.

“Besides cover crops, we also learned farmers continue to soil test and monitor their phosphorus levels to align with the updated P removal rates in the Illinois Agronomy Handbook. We were also excited about the increase of acres where phosphorus applications were moved from a broadcast to a subsurface or banded application as this reduces the likelihood of loss,” said Julie Armstrong, NREC executive director.

NASS survey results showed producers made phosphorous reductions on 7.4 million acres of tiled cropland and 3.8 million acres of nontiled cropland. The survey further showed producers changed phosphorous application methods from broadcast to subsurface, or banding, on 1.44 million tiled acres and 870,000 nontiled acres.

As part of its education and outreach efforts, NREC funds the survey every other year to measure awareness and adoption of production practices designed to help Illinois agriculture meet the goals of the NLRS.

NREC’s research committee will use the survey results to guide funding decisions, along with data from other reporting agencies on the work being adopted by farmers to increase nutrient management strategies and decrease the loss of excess nutrients to the environment.

NREC was created by state statute in 2012 and is funded by a 75-cent-per-ton assessment on bulk fertilizer sold in Illinois.