Published Jul 27, 2016

Show me the Money! Can cover crops pay?

By Sarah Carlson

The third webinar in the American Society of Agronomy series discussed the financial return on investment when adding cover crops to a predominately corn and soybean system. Show me the Money, Can cover crops pay? What economic data is available on changes in costs and revenue when cover crops are added to your system? Learn the cover cropping system Ken Rulon, farmer from Arcadia, IN is using on his farm and he determines the return on investment of adding cover crops. Also hear from Lauren Cartwright with Missouri NRCS about a partial budgeting tool to help farmers better understand changes in costs and revenues when adding cover crops to their farm. CEU credits are still available and are free.


Click on the picture to see more of Lauren’s presentation.

Presenter background: Lauren Cartwright is a Resource Conservationist/Agricultural Economist with USDA-NRCS in Missouri.  She currently coordinates the EQIP program for the state of Missouri and focuses on development of user-friendly economic decision support tools to address resource management issues.  Current work emphasis includes cover crop economics, forestry economics, and grazing economics.


Click on the picture to see more of Ken’s presentation.

Ken Rulon helps manage the Rulon Family’s 6,300 acre farm in central Indiana. The Rulon’s, Ken, Roy, and Rodney, focus on the economics of sustainability. They have been recognized with numerous honors including the No-Till Innovator Award, and the 2012 National Conservation Legacy Award. The farm has documented increases in Organic Matter over time utilizing a combination of never-till with cover crop mixes. Recent on farm data has led to the adoption of variable rate nitrogen application driven by one-acre grid yield goals. Recently Ken was featured in a New York Times article about the increasing popularity of cover crops. For several years, the Rulons have cooperated with Purdue University on replicated field trials comparing various nitrogen rate and cover crop combinations. These plots total over 100 acres provide the data to support their economic analysis of the positive return on investment from cover crops. The Rulon family also facilitates an internet based farmer peer group, centered on sharing best management practices and risk management. The website,,  and an annual conference, are part of this effort. Last year’s event drew over 120 attendees from 14 states and 2 foreign countries. It is a fun group of farmer thinkers committed to maximizing profits and improving soil health. 


Click to read more of the Q & A from the webinar.

Read more about the Q & A follow up from the webinar by clicking on the text box.  Cover crops in the Midwest Corn Belt may be used to accomplish several goals, including erosion control, limiting nutrient movement off-site, enhancing nutrient cycling, and breaking pest cycles, among others. Precipitation amounts, temperature and growing degree-days, and soils differ greatly throughout the 12-state region. In this 3-part webinar series, researchers, CCAs, and producers will present principles and applications of how cover crops have been incorporated into some agricultural management systems across the Midwest. The first ASA series on cover crops can be viewed here.