2017-2018 Cover Crop Program
Planting cover crops this fall makes good sense for Maryland farmers and the Chesapeake Bay. Cover crops have a proven track record of protecting waterways from nutrient runoff, controlling erosion, suppressing weeds and improving the soil for the next crop. They may even help farm fields recover more quickly from drought and extreme rainfall events. As an added benefit, established cover crops can be used for winter grazing or chopped for on-farm livestock forage. Isn't it time you harnessed the power of cover crops for your operation? 
Cost-share grants are available from the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program to help offset seed, labor, and equipment costs associated with planting cover crops in the fall. Maryland has earmarked approximately $22.5 million for this year's program. 

SIGN UP DATES: June 21 -  July 17, 2017


  • Farmers receive up to $75/acre to plant traditional cover crops in the fall. 
  • Payment for harvested cover crops is not being offered this year
  • Early planting incentives are available
  • Legume mixes now qualify for early planting incentives
  • An incentive payment of $10/acre is offered if rye is planted as the cover crop (no mixes) 
Eligible crops may be grazed or chopped for on-farm livestock forage after becoming well established. Manure may be applied in the fall following Maryland's nutrient management requirements. Farmers must certify their cover crop with the soil conservation district within one week of planting and no later than November 13, 2017. Killdown/suppression may take place between March 1 and June 1, 2018. 


  • Cereal Grains: Wheat/spelt, rye, barley, triticale, spring oats, ryegrass and canola/rape (brassica) 
  • Forage Radish
  • Legumes: Crimson clover, Austrian winter peas and hairy vetch (must be planted with a cereal grain as part of a mix)


  • To create diversity, eligible cover crop species may be mixed at a rate of 50 percent cereal grains (except spring oats) and 50 percent radish or legumes. 
  • A new three-species mix (small grains, legumes, forage radish) is now eligible for payment. Mix must contain a minimum of 50% small grains. 


  • Plant cereal grains by November 5, 2017. Some species have earlier deadlines. Ask your soil conservation district for a list of planting deadlines by species. 
  • Mixes containing legumes or forage radish must be planted by October 1, 2017.
  • The aerial planting deadline is October 7, 2017.  


  • Plant cover crops after corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco or vegetables.
  • There is a five acre minimum. There are 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 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.
  • Direct deposit of cost-share payment is available for faster turnaround. 



  • Applicants must be in good standing with MACS and in compliance with Maryland's nutrient management regulations.
  • Additional restrictions may apply. 

The Cover Crop Program is administered by the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share  Program and funded by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. Additional restrictions and conditions may apply. See your soil conservation district representative or contract for details.

Please click here to visit the MDA Cover Crop website.