Cover Crop Program

Plant Cover Crops

BENEFITS OF PLANTING COVER CROPS

Maryland farmers are reaping the benefits of adding cover crops to their rotations. Studies have shown that planting cover crops in the fall can increase yields of cash crops like corn and soybeans after only a few years. Cover crops provide water management benefits for all weather conditions including too much or too little rain. Other benefits include improved soil health, fewer weeds and insect pests, and increased biodiversity. Cover crops faithfully protect water quality by recycling unused plant nutrients in the soil while working all winter to protect fields against erosion. Isn’t it time you added cover crops to your rotation?
 

GRANTS TO PLANT 

The Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program provides farmers with grants to plant cover crops immediately following the summer crop harvest.
 

SIGN-UP 

Sign-up for the cover crop program is held in early summer at soil conservation district offices. Cost-share rates vary from year to year, however, harvested cover crops pay an average rate of $25/acre while grants for planting traditional cover crops (which may not be harvested) start at $45/acre with additional incentives for planting early and using rye as the cover crop. Check this website for sign-up information beginning in early June.

ELIGIBLE COVER CROP SPECIES

  • Cereal Grains: Wheat/spelt, rye, barley, triticale, spring oats, ryegrass and canola/rape (brassica) 
  • Forage Radish
  • Legumes: Crimson clover, Austrian winter peas and hairy vetch (these species may only be planted with a cereal grain as part of a mix)

GUIDELINES AND CONDITIONS

  • Plant cover crops after corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco or vegetables are harvested.
  • There is a five acre minimum. There are no acreage caps.
  • To create diversity, any two cover crop species may be mixed at a rate of 60 percent cereal grains (except spring oats) and 40 percent legumes or radish.
  • All seed purchased must be tested and labeled following Maryland Seed Law and Regulations.
  • Seed must be free of prohibited noxious weed seeds, have a minimum germination rate of 80 percent and no more than 16 restricted noxious weeds per pound.
  • Homegrown seed must be tested for germination and noxious weeds by the Maryland State Seed Laboratory before planting.
  • Cost-share is available for seed testing. The current year's seed tag for all purchased seed must be attached to the fall certification.
  • Applicants must be in good standing with the cost-share program and in compliance with the Nutrient Management Program.

PLANTING DEADLINES AND INCENTIVES

Incentives are available to farmers who plant their cover crops by October 15, however, all cover crops must be planted by early November to qualify for payment and ensure their success.

CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENT

To qualify for payment, farmers must certify acres planted with the soil conservation district within one week of planting and after kill down or suppression, which takes place between March 1 and June 1. Districts conduct field checks on a percentage of certified acres to verify program compliance. 


The Cover Crop Program is administered by the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share  Program and funded by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund. Additional restrictions and conditions may apply. See your soil conservation district representative or contract for details.