May 26, 2022
Wildlife funds to promote cover crops in Indiana, Michigan

To improve water quality and wildlife habitat, Ducks Unlimited (DU) and its partners are spearheading an effort to use almost $400,000 to help Indiana and Michigan farmers implement 75,000 acres of cover crops over four years.

The $387,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will be used to promote cover crops on private land in those states. 

The NFWF award is part of a larger $2.6 million program announced this week in partnership with ADM and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This grant, under NFWF’s Midwest Cover Crop Initiative, aims to implement cover crops on 500,000 acres across Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Minnesota.

Cover crops are a crucial conservation practice that benefits wildlife habitat and water quality for communities. Historically, converting native habitat to intensively farmed row crops could result in soil erosion and a loss of soil health. In certain geographies, it could mean nutrient run-off into waterways and a loss of wildlife habitat. The nutrient run-off contributes to harmful algae blooms in the Great Lakes and the oxygen-depleted gulf hypoxia regions in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, farmers are seeing new opportunities to plant cover crops to keep soil in place and reduce nutrient pollutants. However, according to the NRCS, cover crops are used on only 6% of cultivated land in the north-central United States. DU’s goal is to help farmers apply cover crop practices to improve soil health, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases and improve water resources while providing economic benefits to participating producers and maintaining benefits to wildlife.

“Indiana and Michigan are losing millions of tons of topsoil each year,” Mark Flaspohler, who directs agriculture conservation efforts in DU’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Region, said in a news release. “Cover crops promote sustainable agriculture, thereby protecting local, rural agricultural economies. To begin addressing soil health, the importance of promoting conservation on private agriculture lands cannot be overstated.”

The NFWF funding enables Ducks Unlimited to work with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, Michigan Farm Bureau, the Michigan and Indiana Natural Resource Conservation Service and ADM to provide 75,000 acres of cover crops. These partnerships will result in new staff to coordinate on-the-ground relationships with farmers.

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