If you haven’t planted cover crops yet, you naturally need to know what it’s going to cost before you do. As the cliché goes, there’s an app for that.

Well, more technically speaking, it’s a spreadsheet. Developed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the free Cover Crop Economic Decision Support Tool helps farmers and others determine the immediate costs and benefits of cover crops on their operation.

“This tool offers a partial budget analysis,” according to NRCS state conservationist Ivan Dozier. “It focuses only on operational changes farmers make – actual costs and benefits farmers see when they add in cover crops. We focus on benefits and costs we can easily express in dollars.”

The tool measures factors such as seed/establishment costs, erosion reductions, grazing opportunities, soil fertility levels, nutrient credits and more. Users enter “what-if” scenarios into the tool to compare various short- and long-term benefits of adding cover crops.

“Our hope is that answers to some of the big economic questions will help more farmers give this conservation option a try,” Dozier says. “Cover crops are a good trend, and one that can actually pay off.”

The tool displays results both numerically or graphically. It is available to download here: http://1.usa.gov/225TjyR.