Cover Crop Program

Plant Cover Crops

CHECK BACK SOON 

FOR 2019-2020 SIGN-UP DATES

PUT COVER CROPS TO WORK IN YOUR FIELDS
Maryland farmers understand the benefits of planting cover crops in their fields each fall to build healthy soils, control erosion, recycle unused plant nutrients, and protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Isn’t it time you put cover crops to work in your fields?

GRANTS TO PLANT 
The Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share
(MACS) Program provides grants to help farmers offset seed, labor, and equipment costs associated with planting cover crops. Cost-share rates vary from year to year, however, in recent years farmers have received up to $75 an acre to plant cover crops on their fields. Participating farmers can receive attractive field signs for their farms to help educate the public on ways agriculture is protecting the Bay.

SIGN-UP DATES 
Farmers who want to participate in the Cover Crop Program must sign up at their local soil conservation district office during the annual enrollment window, which usually takes place in early summer and runs for approximately three weeks. Beginning in June, farmers should check this website or contact their soil conservation district for sign-up details. 

PLANTING REQUIREMENTS
Eligible crops may be grazed or chopped for on-farm livestock forage after becoming well established. Cover crops qualify for incentive payments when planted early or when highly valued planting practices are used. Manure may be applied in the fall following Maryland’s nutrient management requirements. 

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. Soil conservation districts conduct field checks on a percentage of certified acres to verify program compliance. 

ELIGIBLE COVER CROP SPECIES

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

GUIDELINES AND CONDITIONS

​Although cost-share eligibility requirements and guidelines may change from year to year, the following provides a basic overview
  • ​Plant cover crops after corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco, or vegetables.
  • There is a five acre minimum. There are no acreage caps.
  • All seed purchased must be tested and labeled following Maryland Seed Law and Regulations.
  • Purchased seed must be free of prohibited noxious weed seeds, have a minimum germination rate of 80 percent, and​ have 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. Seed bags are available at soil conservation district offices.​
  • Cost-share is available for seed testing. The current year’s seed tag for all purchased seed must be attached to the fall certification.
  • Fertilizer applications are prohibited in fall and before March 1.
  • Direct deposit of cost-share grants is available for faster turnaround.
  • Applicants must be in good standing with MACS and in compliance with the Maryland Nutrient Management Program. 
  • Additional restrictions may apply. 

NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT PLAN REQUIREMENT  
​Proof that your farm has a current nutrient
management plan is required. Click here​ for a  Current Nutrient Management Plan Certification form. The completed form must be signed by both the farm operator and the farm’s nutrient management consultant or certified farm operator.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
  • Applicants must be in good standing with MACS and in compliance with Maryland's nutrient management regulations.
  • Additional restrictions may apply. 


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 and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. Additional restrictions and conditions may apply. See your soil conservation district representative or contract for details.