Demographic and Management Factors Affecting the Perceived Benefit of Winter Cover Crops in the Southeast
The inclusion of cover crops in cropping systems brings both direct and indirect costs and benefits. Farmers will adopt and continue to utilize cover crops in their production systems as long as the perceived benefit of using cover crops (e.g. increased yield, higher profits, and improved soil productivity) is positive. The perceived benefits, while partially based on actual changes, may be influenced by demographic, economic and management factors. The purpose of this paper is to examine the demographic and management factors affecting the perceived benefit, in terms of improved crop yield, of using winter annual cover crops. A tobit model is estimated using survey data of Alabama farmers examining cover crop use and management. The model examines the potential effect of different agronomic, demographic and management factors on the perceived yield gain from using winter cover crops of Alabama row crop producers. Estimation results indicated that growing peanuts, growing soybeans, high debt, high gross farm sales, use of conservation tillage, increased application of N to the cash crop after a legume cover crop, and applying N to the cover crop had a positive and statistically significant impact on farmers’ perceived yield gain from using a cover crop. In contrast, number of years farming, farm size, and high cover crop costs had a negative and statistically significant impact on farmers’ perceived yield gain from using a cover crop. Understanding the perceived benefits of using winter cover crops and the factors that shape these perceptions can provide insight into the decision making process farmers make in deciding to adopt and/or retain the use of cover crops on their farm.
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