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Cover Crop Program

Calvert Soil Conservation District


Cover crops are a farmer’s first line of defense against nutrient runoff and soil erosion during the winter months when farm fields would otherwise lie bare. This program provides grants to farmers who plant cereal grains, legumes, and other types of cover
crops on their fields following the harvest of summer crops. As they grow, cover crops soak up unused plant nutrients, protect against wind and water erosion, and add
valuable organic matter to the soil for spring crops.

Sign-up for our cover crop grants is held in early summer and coordinated through soil conservation districts. Cost-share rates vary from year to year, however, in recent years farmers have received up $45 an acre for incorporated seed and $50 an acre for aerial seed or aerial ground seeding. Additional incentive payments are available for highly valued planting practices.

Maryland’s Cover Crop Program is funded by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.

Although cost-share eligibility requirements and guidelines may change from year to year, the following provides a basic overview:
  • ​Cover crops may be planted after corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco or vegetables.
  • There is a five acre minimum. There are no acreage caps.
  • Barley, canola, rapeseed, kale, rye, ryegrass, spring oats, triticale, forage radish and wheat may be used as cover crops. 
  • To help create diversity, legume mixes containing crimson clover, Austrian winter peas or hairy vetch are eligible for grants.
  • All seed purchased for cover crops 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. Seed bags are available at district offices.
  • Cost-share is available for seed testing. 
  • Fertilizer applications are prohibited in fall and before March 1.
  • Applicants must be in good standing with MACS and in compliance with Maryland's nutrient management requirements.​
  • A current Nutrient Management Plan Certification​ is required and must be submitted with the application. 
  • Additional restrictions and guidelines may apply.
In recent years, enrollment has been conducted entirely by mail. Farmers who want to participate in the Cover Crop Program should contact their local soil conservation district 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 for annual sign-up details.

A list of contractors who can plant cover crops in the fall is available at right.  

To receive payment, farmers must certify cover crops with their soil conservation district within one week of planting and no later than November 12, 2021. 

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 cont
ract for details.

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