Are Cover Crops Economically Feasible?

Josh McGillCover Crops, Economics, Research

Although researchers cited numerous advantages of cover crops during a virtual seminar on June 23, it likely will take more time to determine if they are economically worthwhile.

Are Cover Crops Economically Feasible?

Near the end of the seminar, economists showed a slide stating, “Cover crops could be an economically feasible practice in citrus production.” But an audience member seemed to question that statement by pointing out that research hasn’t yet shown cover crops lead to increases in yield or fruit quality.

All of the presenters during the two-hour session were from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The presentations were based on findings from a recently completed three-year trial of cover crops at two locations near Immokalee. The citrus in the trials was Valencia orange planted on Swingle rootstock. A mix of cover crops was planted only in row middles.

Davie Kadyampakeni reported there were no changes in fruit yield, juice quality, canopy area, canopy volume, stem circumference and leaf nutrients in the cover crops trials versus a control with no cover crops. But a slide he showed stated: “However, changes in production due to cover crops in perennial cropping systems usually can take more than three years.”

The presentation indicating that cover crops “could be economically feasible” was created by postdoctoral associate Shourish Chakravarty and economist Tara Wade. Their presentation indicated that the net additional cost of adding cover crops to a grove is $144.53 per acre. They arrived at the net cost of cover crops by calculating that cover crops cost $220 per acre but provide a one-year saving of $75.47 per acre as a result of reduced mowing.

Chakravarty and Wade reported the components of the per-acre costs of cover crops as: $160 for seeds, $4 for fuel, $11 for labor, $40 for use of a no-till drill/seeder and $5 for “other.”

Learn more about the three-year cover crops trial.

Multi-county citrus Extension agent Mongi Zekri hosted the virtual seminar. 

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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