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Valuing the ecosystem services of cover crops: barriers and pathways forward

Daryanto, Stefani, Jacinthe, Pierre-André, Fu, Bojie, Zhao, Wenwu, Wang, Lixin
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2019 v.270-271 pp. 76-78
agricultural conservation practice, cost effectiveness, cover crops, crop rotation, ecosystem services, education, farms, interdisciplinary research, legumes, low input agriculture, organic production
Apart from yield, our appreciation towards ecosystem services provided by conservation agriculture has mostly been limited to organic farming. Despite its multiple recognizable environmental benefits, cover cropping has a relatively low adoption rate, likely due to its multifaceted management requirements, implementation cost and yield variability. Although legume cover crops could increase crop productivity of low input agriculture, the potential cost savings from reduced use of synthetic agricultural inputs (relative to other management costs of cover crops) remains to be determined. To promote greater cover crop adoption, interdisciplinary research examining bundled trade-offs and/or synergies between ecosystem services and their impacts on farm economy should be prioritized. Detailed economic analyses are needed to capture the ecosystem service values of cover cropping, including those that are not easily quantifiable in monetary terms. These would heighten public awareness and help foster government support (e.g., education, incentives) for greater adoption of sustainable practice.