Cover Cropping on The Canadian Prairies

Cover crops have the potential to bestow numerous agronomic, environmental, and economic benefits on Prairie farms. Despite this, they are often viewed with skepticism by farmers, in part due to local climatic limitations. The recent uptake in cover crop use by farmers in neighbouring US states and in Eastern Canada has encouraged an increasing number of Prairie farmers to experiment with cover crops. This makes it an important time to hear from farmers about their needs for research and knowledge transfer. Farmers want to know how to use cover crops to meet their goals, and policy makers want information to design conservation BMP programs to meet environmental targets.

To fill these knowledge gaps the 2020 Prairie Cover Crop Survey was developed to provide information to farmers, agronomists, researchers, policy makers, and government organizations. A total of 281 early adopters of cover crops took part, growing 102, 539 acres of cover crops across every major agricultural region of the Prairies. This presentation will put cover cropping into context for Prairie farmers and stakeholders and describe what type of farms are using cover crops, why farms are using cover crops, cover crop agronomy, what benefits and challenges farms have experienced, and what could be done to enable cover crop use. This survey of early adopters compliments on-farm and traditional small plot research at the University of Manitoba to understand the short and long term effects of cover crops on soil health and crop productivity in Prairie Cropping Systems.