Cover Crop Program

Plant Cover Crops

SIGN-UP FOR THIS YEAR'S COVER CROP PROGRAM HAS ENDED.

Participating​ farmers will receive
welcome mailers in August with important planting information. 

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. Maryland has earmarked approximately $22.5 million for this year’s program.

PAYMENT SCALE
Farmers can receive up to $75/acre to plant traditional cover crops on their fields this fall. Click here for more details. ​

SIGN-UP DATES JUNE 21-JULY 17
Visit your local soil conservation district during the
sign-up window to apply. No appointment is necessary.

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.

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. Farmers must certify their cover crop with their soil conservation district within one week of planting and no later than November 13, 2018. Killdown/suppression takes
place between March 1 and June 1, 2019. Harvested cover crops are not eligible for incentive payments from MACS.

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)

COVER CROP MIXES 

  • Two-species  cover crop mixes may be planted at a rate of 50 percent cereal grains (including oats) and 50 percent radish, legumes or canola/rape.​
  • Three-species mixes (50/25/25) must contain a minimum of 50 percent eligible small grains.​
  • Seeding rates are available at soil conservation district offices. 

PLANTING DATES
  • ​Plant cereal grains by November 5, 2018. Some species have earlier deadlines. Ask your soil conservation district for a complete list of planting deadlines by species.
  • Mixes containing legumes, forage radish, canola/rape, or oats must be planted by October 1, 2018.
  • The aerial seeding deadline is October 7, 2018.


GUIDELINES AND CONDITIONS

  • ​Plant cover crops after corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco, or vegetables.
  • There is a five acre minimum, but 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 with a germination rate between 65 percent and 79 percent may be used, however, a higher seeding rate is required and fields may be subject to a spot check.
  • Cost-share is available for seed testing. The current year’s seed tag for all purchased seed must be attached to the fall certification.
  • 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. 

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.