Truterra And SWCS Research Demonstrates Value Of Cover Crops For The Environment


Truterra is rooted in science. We’re using the latest tools and technology to conduct research and evaluate data that helps farmers get the information they need to consider adopting regenerative practices. That’s why Truterra teamed up with the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) in 2021 to lead a three-year trial to assess the field-scale benefits of cover crops to build soil health, reduce erosion, sequester carbon and improve return on investment. The trial consists of over 2,400 acres in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.  With the first-year complete, here is what the research is revealing so far:

  • Trial acres were net carbon negative, sequestering nearly three times as much greenhouse gas than check fields without cover crops emitted, on average;
  • Sheet and rill erosion was cut in half and wind erosion was reduced by nearly three quarters (72%); and
  • Analytics from the Truterra sustainability tool, which quantifies trial participants’ stewardship actions, found that cover-cropped fields showed an average improvement of 8 points to their sustainability score. The 0-100 scale looks at overall sustainability of the field; the higher the number the better.

Clint Luellen is participating in the cover crop at his family farm in Iowa. He is passionate about sustainable farming and was awarded the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award this year. Clint values the certainty and predictability that the trial data offers. He explains, “there can be a lot of unknowns in the cover crop world, so it’s been very valuable to work closely with the conservation agronomists at my ag retailer Heartland Cooperative to evaluate all of the data from the trials to see what’s going to work for our operations and make changes to continue to improve the performance of my fields with both the environment and profitability in mind.”

Tom Ryan, who recently took the helm as president of Truterra, is encouraged that initial findings indicate cover crops provide notable environmental and economic benefits to a farm’s operations, the environment and broader community.

“Nobody is better positioned than farmers to be an outstanding steward of the land,” he says. “This three-year trial is important because the results could help more farmers see how they can make a positive impact—whether it’s improving soil health, water conservation, reducing erosion, capturing carbon, or something else.”

This three-year trial, which is part of a $1.5 million USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant On-Farm Trials, is being conducted in partnership with Truterra-aligned retailer cooperatives Alliance Ag and Grain, Frontier Cooperative and Heartland Cooperative. Participating farmers and retailers use the Truterra sustainability tool to measure the performance of trial acres that implemented cover crops against the performance of a non-cover cropped control group. Participating farmers are also receiving scientific support through SWCS to help evaluate environmental outcomes. We’ll continue to update you on findings as the trials continue.

New to cover crops? Dr. Jennifer Wells, Senior Agronomist and Account manager at Truterra, will get you up to speed here.