By: Dean Baas, Michigan State University Extension
Interest in cover crops and their contribution to soil health has been on the rise nationally, statewide and locally. There are many benefits in adding cover crops in farming systems including erosion control, nutrient sourcing and management, weed and pest control, building soil organic matter and reducing soil compaction. Now is a good time to be thinking about how cover crops fit into your rotations this coming year, what cover crops will provide the benefits you are looking for, seed sources for those cover crops and when and how to plant them. The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) website has information and tools to assist you in making cover crop decisions.
On Feb. 18, 2014, farmers have an opportunity to learn from one another while exploring local and national perspectives on cover crops. You are invited to attend a free, live broadcast of the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health and discuss how to build soil health, improve yields, curb erosion, manage pests and build resilience in your farming system. On Feb. 18, locations in every state across the country will host Cover Crops and Soil Health Forums concurrent with the National Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference in Omaha, Neb.
The national conference is sponsored by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and will bring together key leaders, researchers, innovators and policymakers in American agriculture to examine the benefits, opportunities and challenges associated with improving the health and function of our soils through the adoption of soil health management systems.
The forums will open with live video Internet-stream from the national conference and will feature Secretary Tom Vilsack (invited) and Howard G. Buffett, followed by panel presentations from leading cover crop farmers from across the nation. Approximately 200 concurrent forum locations throughout the country will provide farmers, NRCS and our conservation partners and stakeholders with a unique opportunity to experience the conference and discuss ways we can more fully organize and energize our efforts to enable the soil health movement—at the grassroots level.