Study Analyzes the Economics of Cover Crops

Daniel Cooper Cover Crops, Economics, Research

In the face of HLB in Florida, a recent study delved into the economic viability of incorporating cover crops in citrus groves to enhance soil health and overall tree well-being. Shourish Chakravarty and Tara Wade wrote an article, Cost Analysis of Using Cover Crops in Citrus Production, about the study. Both authors are with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Southwest Florida Research and Education Center. Chakravarty is a post-doctoral associate; Wade is an assistant professor and economist.


In the article’s abstract, the authors stated: “Considering the short-term savings from adopting cover crops, the per-acre cost of production increased by $107.3/acre or by 5.73% and constituted 5.42% of the total production cost during the first year of adoption. After the 2018–19 peak, the yield and quality for both Valencia and non-Valencia oranges have decreased steadily. Adopting cover crops in the current yield-quality scenario will not be profitable for either Valencia or non-Valencia oranges. However, for Valencia oranges, at the median yield and quality levels of 193.5 boxes/acre and 6.08 pound solids/box, respectively, cover crop adoption would be profitable because the break-even price of $2.25/pound solids would be comparable to the market prices of the past five years.”


Citrus growers may benefit from adopting cover crops because healthier soils could improve yields and fruit quality of citrus trees. However, growers are uncertain about the costs and benefits associated with cover crop investments.

Growers may express hesitancy to adopt cover crops because of concerns about costs of establishment and management, as well as time taken to see tangible benefits. Labor, seed, fuel and machinery rentals are some of the cover crops inputs that could increase citrus production costs. However, decreased costs due to reductions in fertilizers or foliar supplements and mowing would make cover crops more profitable.

Some other barriers to adoption could include:

  • Growers’ limited experience using cover crops
  • Grower risk perceptions
  • The limited information available about cover crops in citrus production
  • Lack of ownership of specialized machinery such as a no-till drill for planting cover crop seeds

Moreover, improper management of cover crops could increase their chances of becoming weeds or increasing pest populations.


Although the benefits of cover crop adoption on fruit yield and quality are not immediate, the benefits on soil health and quality are well-documented. Therefore, cover crops could indirectly benefit citrus trees by providing improved growing conditions.

Including cover crops in citrus production could be a feasible option in the long term, even though in the short term it would increase the costs of production.

Source: American Society for Horticultural Science

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