2014-2015 Cover Crop Sign-up Open for Farmers - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

2014-2015 Cover Crop Sign-up Open for Farmers

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(Photo: Maryland Department of Agriculture) (Photo: Maryland Department of Agriculture)

By Brian Baker

ANNAPOLIS, Md.- The Maryland Department of Agriculture has announced that its 2014-2015 cover crop sign-up will take place at soil conservation districts statewide June 24 through July 15.

Gov. Martin O’Malley has allocated approximately $20 million for the conservation program, which provides grants to farmers who agree to plant cover crops on their fields in the fall to conserve nutrients, reduce soil erosion and protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Farmers should visit their local Soil Conservation District office during the three-week sign-up window, as this will be their only opportunity to enroll in this year’s program.

The MDA said farmers who want to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and increase the productivity of their farmland are encouraged to sign up for the 2014-2015 Cover Crop Program. Two planting options are available: traditional cover crops receive a base rate of $45/acre and up to $55/acre in add on incentives for using highly valued planting practices. Traditional cover crops may not be harvested, but can be grazed or chopped for livestock forage for on-farm use after becoming well established. Harvested cover crops qualify for $25/acre with a bonus payment of $10/acre if rye is used as the cover crop.

Farmers may fill out one application to enroll in both program options. There are no enrollment caps and certain restrictions apply.

Barley, canola, rapeseed, kale, rye, ryegrass, spring oats, triticale and wheat planted in the fall of 2014 are eligible. New this year, farmers may mix any two approved cover crop species to create diversity, mixes, however, do not qualify for the $10/acre rye bonus. Farmers may use seed they have saved, but all seed used is required to meet Maryland Seed Law and Regulatory Standards and have a minimum germination rate of 80 percent.

Maryland’s nutrient management regulations require farmers to plant cover crops when organic nutrient sources are applied to fields in the fall. In addition to their water quality benefits, cover crops improve soil health and water retention, increase organic matter in the soil, reduce weeds and pests and provide habitat for beneficial insects.

Farmers should check their mailboxes for informational flyers on the 2014-2015 program. Information is also available at www.mda.maryland.gov. Click on the top Conservation tab, then click on Financial Assistance and Cover Crops.

 

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