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Md. farmers get extension on cover crop program

October 29, 2009

ANNAPOLIS - Due to poor weather and saturated soil conditions, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has extended the planting deadline for farmers who have signed up to plant cover crops this fall with the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share Program.

Farmers now have until Nov. 16 to plant rye, barley, wheat and triticale on their crop fields. They must certify the acreage planted with their local soil conservation districts by Nov. 23 in order to be reimbursed by the program for associated seed, labor and equipment costs.

For more more information, farmers should visit their local soil conservation district office or contact the MACS office at 410-841-5864.

The majority of program funding comes from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund with additional support from the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund.

"Many of our farmers planted their summer crops late due to an unusually wet spring. Recent rains have delayed harvests and as a result, farmers have not been able to plant their cover crops as early as planned," said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. "Extending the planting deadline provides farmers enrolled in our Cover Crop Program with the opportunity to plant more acres so that we can achieve maximum water quality benefits for the streams and rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay."

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The program is a centerpiece in the suite of 27 smart, green and growing actions that Gov. Martin O'Malley has established to ramp up Chesapeake Bay restoration and achieve an additional reduction of 3.75 million pounds of nitrogen and 201,000 pounds of phosphorus from reaching the bay by the end of 2011. The program will account for more than one-third of this goal.

Planted in the fall following the summer harvest, cover crops are cereal grains such as wheat, rye and barley that grow in cool weather. They help slow down rainwater runoff during the winter when soil would otherwise be exposed, while recycling any nutrients remaining in the soil from the previous summer crop. Last year Maryland farmers planted 238,800 acres of cover crops on their fields which prevented an estimated 1.1 million pounds of nitrogen and 43,600 pounds of phosphorus from impacting local waterways.

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