Researchers at the University of Manitoba (UM) have shared the results from the 2020 Prairie Cover Crop Survey.

The report suggests that cover crops are becoming established in the Prairies and can be grown in a wide range of locations and environments. The survey was developed to provide information to farmers, agronomists, researchers, policymakers, and government organizations that will play an important role in the future of cover crops in the region.

Between October 2020 and April 2021, Dr. Yvonne Lawley and graduate student Callum Morrison from the Department of Plant Science at UM asked farmers questions about how their farm utilized cover crops in 2020. Respondents were also asked about what could be done to support those using cover crops as well as questions to characterize farm types and size.

“It is an important time to hear from farmers about their needs for research and knowledge transfer,” said Morrison. “Farmers want to know how to use cover crops to meet their goals. policymakers and extension providers want information to best assist farmers and design policy to reach environmental targets.”

In total, the survey collected responses from 281 early adopters who grew a cover crop in 2020. These farms, which were from every major agricultural region of the Prairies, grew 102,539 acres of cover crops. Of the respondents, 31% were from Alberta, 32% from Saskatchewan and 37% from Manitoba.

“As early adopters of cover cropping on the Prairies, we’ve found it to be a bit of a lonely pursuit,” said Kevin Nickle, survey respondent and grain farmer in the Red River Valley. “This survey demonstrates that there is widespread participation and a general desire to continue. There is so much to learn in this realm and this survey may help inform researchers and practitioners on the specific questions to ask.”

The research team partnered with a number of farm organizations and individuals in sharing the survey widely.

“We must thank all those who took the time to call their neighbour, send an email, add the survey notice a newsletter, published a story, or retweeted a post,” said Yvonne Lawley. “It was exciting to experience the strength of networks in the agricultural community throughout this project.”

Funding for this project was provided by General Mills and Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development through the Manitoba Ag Action Program.

The report can be accessed at the University of Manitoba Agriculture & Food Knowledge Exchange website: https://umanitoba.ca/agricultural-food-sciences/make/make-ag-food-resources#crops

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