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A new conservation record was recently set by Hoosier farmers.

According to a recent conservation survey, Indiana farmers have set a conservation record this year by planting an estimated 1.6 million acres of overwinter living covers.

Overwintering living covers, such as cover crops and small grains, like winter wheat, are known for their environmental benefits including helping increase organic matter in the soil, improving overall soil health by adding living roots to the soil for additional months of the year, improving water infiltration into the soil, and serve as natural fertilizers. 

Although the conservation transect does not differentiate between cover crops and small grains, Indiana farmers typically plant fewer than 200,000 acres of small grains annually, so cover crops vastly dominate the 1.6 million estimated acres.

As a result of the cover crops planted, it is estimated that 1.7 million tons of sediment were prevented from entering Indiana’s waterways, which is enough sediment to fill more than 480 Olympic-size swimming pools. Overwintering covers also prevented 4.3 million pounds of nitrogen and over 2.2 million pounds of phosphorus from entering Indiana’s waterways.

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