Online Tool Determines Cover Crop ROI

Farmers can now easily calculate their potential return on investment (ROI) for cover crops with a new online tool. Iowa State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE) recently built the tool, which helps farmers who don’t use cover crops evaluate their potential ROI.

The tool shows  a farmer’s estimated annual net returns for cover crops in a variety of scenarios. The resulting details can also help serve as a benchmark for farmers who currently use cover crops and want to improve their ROI.

“The rate of adoption of cover crops in Iowa is low due to a variety of reasons, including thin windows of opportunity to plant due to weather, uncertainty associated with adoption of new practices and low corn and soybean prices that limit the ability of farmers to use their own resources in conversation practices,” explained Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor of economics and Extension at Iowa State University, in a press release.

Only 3% of Iowa’s farmland is planted to cover crops. The study found the average farmer in the sample incurred losses when using cover crops, even after accounting for cost-share payments. Researchers did note some farmers do profit from cover crops, but they didn’t represent the majority in this study.

“Uncertainty about the net returns to cover crops has been a significant barrier to adoption. This new tool is intended to help farmers evaluate net returns on their individual farm and reduce uncertainty,” Plastina says.

To learn more and access the net returns calculator for cover crops, visit

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