Net Returns Calculator for Cover Crops Terminated with Herbicides

This decision tool is intended to help farmers who do not currently use cover crops evaluate the expected annual net returns to cover crop adoption under alternative scenarios, and to serve as a benchmark for farmers who are already using cover crops and want to improve the return on their investment.

Partial budgets show the annual net change in profits resulting from adding cover crops to a corn/soybean rotation. The data were collected through a statewide survey in 2017 and analyzed by a team of economists and agronomists at Iowa State University, in close collaboration with Practical Farmers of Iowa.


  1. Begin by selecting your region below
  2. Select the options (crop and management) that best fit your operation
  3. After entering your expected cash crop price, click on the *SUBMIT* button

Additional information:

  1. Disclaimer: Please note that only budgets with 10 or more observations are reported, limiting the number of alternative scenarios in grounds of robustness of the results.
  2. Consider variability: our tool will prepare a report showing the mean (average) and the median values for each line in the partial budget.
  3. Enter your own data: you can choose to enter your own data in the column to the right of the reported values, called Your Scenario. You may choose to import the mean or the median values from our partial budgets first by clicking in the corresponding button, and then adjust the values to reflect your own reality.
  4. Adjust as needed: The net change in profits for Your Scenario is updated in real time when you enter a new value in Your Scenario.
  5. How to interpret the results: When the net change in profits is positive, cover crops generate an increase in annual net returns; and when the net change in profits is negative, cover crops generate a reduction in annual net returns or an increase in annual losses. In the latter case, please see the list of suggested actions to improve the financial performance of cover crops immediately after the partial budget results.

Further resources:

Authors: Alejandro Plastina, Fang-ge Liu, Wendiam Sawadgo, Fernando Miguez, Sarah Carlson, and Guillermo Marcillo. Programming by Curtis Balmer and Yongjie Ji.

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