Winter cover crops are plants used to protect soils during the period between the harvest and establishment of cash crops such as corn and soybeans, effectively providing farm fields with perennial cover. The total cost of cover crops varies considerably from site to site and year to year, yet the single costliest aspect of using cover crops is the cost of seed. Seed cost also tends to be the most volatile component of the cost of cover crop use, subject to complex supply dynamics associated with producing viable seed, storage capacity, and unpredictable regional demand. We conducted a survey of seed dealers who sell cover crop seeds using the state of Indiana as a case study. The majority of the respondents believe that sales for cover crop seeds over the next five years in Indiana will increase. In response to this expected increased demand, seed dealers noted they intend to (in no particular order): increase contracted cover crop seed production and invest in seed handling and storage capacity; increase direct interaction with farmers; become more active with workshops and demonstration field days; and/or create marketing materials that specifically promote the soil health benefits of cover crops. The top three factors seed dealers believed would improve the Indiana cover crop seed market the most were: (1) financial incentives for cover crop use; (2) improved customer knowledge of cover crop management; and tied for (3) reduced seed production costs, and broader support of cover crop usage from commodity groups. The top three topics of publicly funded research most useful to the cover crop industry were: (1) understanding factors that influence farmer cover crop adoption; (2) cover crop impact on field profitability; and (3) understanding long-term soil benefits of cover crops. Seed dealers play a unique role in conservation practices such as cover crops, not just because they are often trusted facilitators of information and guidance, but also because their business actions strongly influence available conservation opportunities, management options, and direct cost to farmers. The respondents to the survey offered their opinions regarding a number of issues that would help their business viability in a sustainable way while promoting farmer adoption of cover crops and their long-term commitment to the practice.
Tyndall, John C.; Valcu-Lisman, Adriana; Bogert, Melanie; and Zobrodsky, Abigail
"The Cover Crop Seed Industry: An Indiana Case Study,"
Journal of Applied Farm Economics: Vol. 4
Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jafe/vol4/iss1/4