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Cover crops working for Prairie producers

Cover crops working for Prairie producers

A new report identified multiple aspects of cover cropping in Western Canada

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A majority of farmers in Western Canada who have adopted cover crops have seen beneficial results, a new report says.

Between October 2020 and April 2021, Callum Morrison a researcher at the University of Manitoba, surveyed farmers about cover crop usage.

They published the results in the 2020 Prairie Cover Crop Survey Report.

281 farmers from Alberta (86), Saskatchewan (90) and Manitoba (105), who grew 102,539 acres of cover crops, responded to the survey.

A majority acknowledged cover crops provided benefits on their farms.

“81 per cent of farmers said they’ve observed benefits from growing cover crops,” Morrison told “And 71 percent said they saw benefits within the first three years.”

The survey asked the farmers to identify the specific benefits the cover crops contributed to.

The top three benefits were improved soil health (about 55 per cent), increased biodiversity (48 per cent) and increased organic matter (46 per cent).

Morrison also asked farmers about cover crop species.

Surveyed producers identified 15 types of cover crops grown across Western Canada, with clover (57 per cent), oats (52 per cent) and peas (41 per cent) as the top three.

“It’s not too surprising to see many farmers planting clovers,” Morrison said. “They can be broadcast, planted, drilled and are quite flexible. Red clover can also be overwintered or grazed.”

Morrison hopes the ag science community will take the results from this research and applying it further.

With the general overview of the cover crop landscape in Western Canada, work can begin to identify how to address challenges associated with cover crop production.

Surveyed farmers, for example said short growing seasons, low fall moisture levels and added costs were among the issues hindering cover crop production.

“My hope is the next stage can show where future research can be concentrated,” Morrison said. “We know cover cropping is viable on the Prairies and deserves more research from farmers, agronomists and even policymakers.”

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