Cover cropping up to 7.2% in U.S. Midwest, boosted by government programs

Cereal rye cover crop. NRCS/SWCS photo by Lynn Betts.

URBANA, Ill. – Cover crops, with their ability to reduce erosion and promote soil health, are being planted across more Midwestern land than ever. That’s according to new University of Illinois research showing cover crop adoption reached 7.2% in 2021, up from just 1.8% a decade prior. The finding is the result of sophisticated satellite-based remote sensing efforts that accurately detected cover crops across 140 million acres of cropland and tracked their expansion over 20 years.