Cover Crop Program



Don't let your fields sit idle this fall and winter. Growing cover crops after the summer harvest can help improve your soil, protect local waterways and bolster your fields' productivity. Cover crops protect water quality by recycling unused plant nutrients remaining in the soil from the previous summer crop. They work all winter to protect fields against wind and water erosion. Better still, they improve the soil for next year's crop by adding organic matter, suppressing weeds, and providing habitat for beneficial insects. 


The Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program provides grants to help farmers offset seed, labor and equipment costs associated with planting cover crops in the fall. Maryland has earmarked approximately $22 million for this year's program.


June 24 - July 15, 2015 at soil conservation districts.



  • Cereal Grains: Wheat/speltz, rye, barley, triticale, spring oats, ryegrass and canola/rape (brassica)
  • Forage Radish
  • Legumes: Crimson clover, Australian winter peas and hairy vetch 


  • Plant by November 5, 2015. Early planting incentives are offered.
  • To create diversity, any two cover crop species may be mixed at a rate of 60 percent cereal gains and 40 percent legumes or radish.
  • Mixes containing rye do not qualify for the $10/acre rye incentive.
  • Mixes containing forage radish must be planted by September 15, 2015
  • Mixes containing legumes must be planted by October 1, 2015. 


  • Plant cover crops after corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco or vegetables are harvested.
  • Five acre minimum; no acreage caps.
  • All seed purchased must be tested and labeled following Maryland Seed Law and Regulations.
  • Seed must be free of prohibited noxious weed seeds, have a minimum germination rate of 80 percent and have no more than 16 restricted noxious weeds per pound.
  • Homegrown seed must be tested for germination and noxious weeds by the Maryland State Seed Laboratory before planting.
  • Cost-share is available for seed testing. The current year's seed tag for all purchased seed must be attached to the fall certification.
  • Applicants must be in good standing with MACS and in compliance with the Nutrient Management Program.


May not be harvested but may be grazed or chopped for on-farm forage after becoming well established. These cover crops qualify for incentive payments when highly valued planting practices are used. Manure may be applied in the fall following Maryland's nutrient management requirements, however, no incentives are offered. Certify with the local SCD within one week of planting and no later than November 12, 2015. Killdown/supression must take place between March 1 and June 1, 2016. 


This program option is available to farmers who want to harvest their cover corps. Farmers should provide their best estimate of acres they plan to harvest on their applications. 
  • Payment: $25/acre.
  • Bonus Payment: $10/acre if rye is planted as the cover crop.
  • Acreage Cap: None.
  • Fertilizer Use: After March 1, 2016. Early fertilization at green up is prohibited.
  • Certification with SCD: Within one week of planting and no later than November 12, 2015. 

The Cover Crop Program is administered by the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program and funded by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund.