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Cover Crop and Tillage Transect Data

According to a recent survey, Indiana farmers planted 950,000 acres of cover crops in 2019.

Cover crops are known for their environmental benefits and, with the exception of corn and soybeans, are planted on more acres than any other commodity crop in Indiana. They are typically planted in the fall after harvest and designed to keep roots in the ground throughout the winter, which improves soil health and helps filter water off of the farm.

Due to the late spring planting in 2019 and the subsequent delayed harvest, some cover crops were not able to be planted due to time constraints and unfavorable weather.

As a result of the cover crops planted last year, it is estimated that 1.2 million tons of sediment was prevented from entering Indiana’s waterways, along with 3 million pounds of nitrogen and 1.5 million pounds of phosphorus. That’s enough sediment to fill more than 350 Olympic-size swimming pools.

For the first time, the Indiana Conservation Partnership tracked living cover crops planted into fallow ground due to the increased number of prevent plant ground seen in 2019. The data found that a total of 230,000 acres had prevent plant or was fallow ground which had living cover crops or cereal grains planted into them.

In 2019, 71% of Indiana’s corn acres were no till or strip till acres. For Indiana’s 2019 soybean crop, 76% of soybean acres had residues and soils undisturbed which allow the soil to hold in vital nutrients.

The cover crop transect is a visual survey of cropland in the state. It’s conducted every year in the fall and spring by members of the Indiana Conservation Partnership, including the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Purdue Extension, as well as Earth Team volunteers, to show a more complete story of the state’s conservation efforts. Due to the implications of the novel coronavirus some of the 92 Indiana counties were missing cover crop data for the 2019 year, in those counties the data used was their individual five year averages.