Cover cropping has been promoted for improving soil health and environmental quality in the Southern High Plains (SHP) region of the United States, which faces challenges in sustainable crop production due to declining water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer, the primary source of water for irrigated crop production.
We examined the impact of integrating cover crops within winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L)-based rotations on farm profitability and risk in the SHP. The study combines experimental yield data with other secondary information, including market prices, to conduct simulation analysis and evaluate risk. The results show that, due to the additional monetary costs involved, none of the cover crop options is economically viable. However, when secondary benefits (erosion control and green nitrogen) or government subsidies are included in the analysis, one of the cover crop options (peas) dominates the fallow alternative. Moreover, when the secondary benefits and a government subsidy are combined, two cover crop alternatives (peas and oats) emerge as more profitable options than leaving land fallow.
These results highlight the importance of agricultural research and extension programs that are making a concerted effort to develop more productive farming techniques and increase public awareness about the long-term benefits of adopting soil health oriented management systems, such as cover cropping, in the SHP region.
Publication: Acharya, R.N., R. Ghimire, A. GC, and D. Blaney (2019). Effect of cover crop on profitability and risk in the Southern High Plains. Sustainability, 7119. Open access.