Cover crop enrollment at all-time high in Md.

TIMONIUM, Md. (Sept. 2) — For the fifth straight year, Maryland farmers have broken the record for acreage enrolled in the state’s cover crop program.
For the 2014-15 program year, 1,849 Maryland farmers requested funding to plant a record 641,426 acres of winter grains.
The record sign-up continues a five-year annual increase in acreage, eclipsing last year’s record set with 608,427 acres. The number of applicants statewide has fluctuated some, staying above the 1,800 mark the last three years.
“Not only is Maryland’s cover crop program a very attractive and flexible program, it has the potential to do more for the Bay than ever before,” said Earl “Buddy” Hance, Maryland secretary of agriculture. “We commend and thank all farmers who, together, have applied to plant more than half a million acres of small grain crops that protect our soil and water by taking up any remaining nutrients and preventing soil erosion over the winter.”
Maryland farmers exceeded the Phase I and II Watershed Implementation Plan milestone for cover crops in 2011 and 2013 and are on track to exceed it again next year with this new record enrollment acreage, MDA said in a news release.
Conservation experts believe cover crops are one of the most cost-effective means of helping to restore the Chesapeake Bay.
According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Mid-Shore region of the state dominated this year’s signup.
Queen Anne’s recorded 65,716 acres; Kent County, 64,851; Talbot County, 60,150; Caroline County 55,094 and Dorchester County, 49,149. They were the top five counties in the state in acres devoted to cover crop.
“The future of agriculture and our environment is bright,” Gov. Martin O’Malley told the crowd of about 200 gathered for his annual Agriculture and Volunteer Day lunch at the Maryland State Fair on Aug. 28. “Today’s record cover crop announcement is great news for our farmers who continue to voluntarily take strong conservation actions on their farms, diversify their operations and use new technologies as they become available.”
Hance announced that the second season of the 13-part series “Maryland Farm and Harvest,” co-produced by Maryland Public Television and MDA, will premiere on Nov. 11.
The series, funded by a variety of agricultural commodity and trade organizations, highlights the diversity of Maryland farms and farmers and helps increase the public’s understanding of farmers and farm life, as well as agriculture’s contributions to the state and national economy.
New episodes will air Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and episodes will repeat Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Sundays at 6 a.m., and Fridays at 6 p.m.
For more information, and to watch episodes from the debut season, visit