Policy Opportunities to Increase Cover Crop Adoption on North Carolina Farms
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Cover cropping is an agricultural practice that produces on-farm benefits while contributing to broader public sustainability goals. However, cover crops have not been widely adopted in the United States, while the barriers to farmer adoption of cover crops have received little research attention. This study considers the relative importance of the barriers that farmers overcome to adopt cover crops in North Carolina and identifies the resources that enable successful adoption. We used an email survey of NC farmers to gather quantitative data about cover crop use and preferences, supplemented by qualitative interviews with experts on cover crop adoption. Our data show that farmers in NC overcame three broad categories of challenges to adopt cover crops: agronomic, input costs, and knowledge transfer. The level of these challenges varies depending on farm size and income, age of farmer, farming experience, and whether information to plant cover crops was obtained through extension, farmer networks, or private industry. Timing for planting, in particular, challenges farmers regardless of their demographic characteristics. We recommend a holistic policy approach that strengthens diverse knowledge transfer networks, bolsters farmer incentives through existing cost-share programs, and invests in applied research to develop varieties that better complement common cash crop rotations.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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