The University of Manitoba is looking for numbers on local cover crop use, and it’s turning to producers to get them.
Yvonne Lawley of the University of Manitoba is spearheading the Prairie Cover Crop Survey, which hopes to gauge how widely and in what form cover crops are taking root across the Prairies.
The survey was launched this year, and will be repeated each year through to 2021.
Advocates say cover crops have piqued farmer interest, but there is little data on how many producers on the Prairies are using the practice.
Lawley’s five-minute survey hopes to uncover how many producers are actually planting cover crops on what kind of farms and on how many acres. The survey also covers which species farmers are planting in cover crops, which windows they are being planted in (including season-long green manures), where they fit in crop rotations, whether the cover crop is grazed to recoup economic cost and how much farmers are willing to pay for cover crop seed.
The point, Lawley said, is to gather hard statistics on cover crop interest in Manitoba and other Prairie provinces. That information can then be used to leverage policy changes and research funding.
“This is essential information that we do not know and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that people are starting to adopt cover crops, even if it’s on a small scale,” she said. “We want to be able to track that change over time and also just to demonstrate to funders and policy-makers that this is an issue that needs to be looked at either in policy or funding for research. The only way that we’re going to get those numbers is if innovators and people who are already growing cover crops can help by coming and participating in the survey.”
The survey aggregates data by region and no individual farm will be identifiable in the results, she said. Farmers can, however, provide contact information if they want a copy of the results or if they are interested in participating in more in-depth research, such as a full interview into how they use cover crops or on-farm research.