If you are a farmer and you would love to purchase a machine that plants cover crop seeds directly into a field where another crop like soybeans is already growing. But you may not afford the $80,000 price tag. So you should be happy because the state legislature recently approved a cost-share program to help farmers to purchase such equipment.
The cost-share program will start as a pilot program. But then it will be scaled up because it’s a lot to ask farmers to invest so much to try cover cropping.
The cost-share program and other plans of Minnesota can help in reaching the ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals outlined in a new strategy unveiled this month by Gov. Tim Walz. “To not address climate change will be that existential threat to the health, wellbeing and economic future of Minnesotan for generations to come,” Walz said at Ecolab’s facility in Eagan. The more than 60-page plan includes targets of six goals, including boosting clean energy and clean transportation—a sector that is the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
“To maintain the things we love about Minnesota — our pristine lakes, incredible wilderness areas and state parks, and outdoor economy — we need to act in a collaborative, bipartisan, and forward-looking way,” Walz said in a press release. “That’s what this plan aims to do.”
In addition to increasing the number of farmers who use cover crops — less than 4% of the state’s farmlands currently have cover crops on them — the plan also calls for increasing conservation tillage, the use of biochar on cropland and pasture land, and incentivizing nitrogen and methane management practices that will reduce emissions. It also points to the importance of developing new markets and supply chains for perennial crops that keep the soil covered year round.
That last objective is something agronomist and plant geneticist Don Wyse has been working on for more than a decade. In 2012, he co-founded the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota, which has a team of 75 people developing more than a dozen crops that can thrive in the Upper Midwest. Some are winter annuals, like pennycress, that can be planted in the fall, grow under heavy snow and be harvested in the spring for things like biofuels.