Across the United States, 41,509 water bodies are considered too polluted to meet water quality standards. When it has been determined that a river, lake or stream cannot be used for drinking, swimming, or fishing, local authorities often face difficult decisions to address these water quality deficiencies. Constructing water quality treatment infrastructure can be a costly means of meeting water quality standards. Alternatively, addressing non-point sources of nutrient pollution can improve water quality at a much lower cost. As more states and watersheds adopt nutrient reduction strategies, increasing numbers of local entities will look for innovative ways to improve water quality through agricultural stewardship. In particular, cover crops are proving to be a valuable agricultural practice that can significantly reduce pollution flowing into water bodies and help meet nutrient reduction goals.
Cover crops are non-commodity crops that are typically grown during the non-growing season, when the soil would otherwise be bare. Farmers who invest in cover crops typically do so for higher yields, nutrient retention, soil tillage, forage for livestock, reduced erosion, reduced input costs, and a more sustainable cropping system overall.
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