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Maryland's 2019-2020 Cover Crop Program

Cover Crops copyright Edwin RembergOVER

Congratulations on your decision to plant cover crops this fall. The Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program welcomes you as one of nearly 2,000 farmers who signed up during our open enrollment period to plant cover crops this fall to recycle unused plant nutrients remaining in the soil, protect fields against wind and water erosion, and improve the soil for next year's crop. 

It's time to begin planning your cover crop program. Please review the planting information here
Eligible cover crops may be grazed or chopped for on-farm livestock forage after becoming well established. Manure may be applied in the fall following Maryland's nutrient management regulations. 

All cover crops must be planted by November 5, 2019 and certified with the soil conservation district by November 13, 2019 to qualify for payment. 


  • 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


  • 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.  
  • The species with the earliest planting date determines the planting deadline.
  • Mixes containing rye do not qualify for the $10/acre rye incentive. 


  • Consult cover crop planting dates and rates here
  • The aerial seeding deadline for cover crops is October 7, 2019.
  • Aerial and aerial ground seeding rates must be increased​ by 25 percent. 


  • ​Plant cover crops by October 1, 2019: Add a $10-$20/acre early planting bonus depending on planting method
  • Plant by October 15, 2019: Add a $5-$10/acre early planting bonus
  • Terminate cover crop after May 1: Add $15/acre
  • Plant rye (no mixes): Add $10/acre
  • Aerial seed cover crop into standing corn by airplane or helicopter between August 15 and September 1: Add $10/acre
  • Maximum payment is $90/acre 


  • ​Plant cover crops after corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco, or vegetables.
  • A field inspection is required for farmers who apply for the Extended Season incentive​ payment. The acreage cap is 500 acres.
  • 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. A higher seeding rate is required and fields may be subject to a performance-based spot check. 
  • Cost-share is available for seed testing. Attach the current year’s seed tag for all purchased seed to the fall certification.
  • Fertilizer applications are prohibited in fall and before March 1.
  • Direct deposit of cost-share grants is available. 

  • Participants 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. See your soil conservation district representative or contract for details.