Cover crops are back in style.
That's the latest, according to The New York Times, which on Feb. 6 published a feature story on the practice, which is believed to improve soil health and reduce nutrient runoff on farmland.
“Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution with Deep Roots in the Past” highlights a handful of farmers, including brothers Mark and Doug Anson of Anson Farms in Illinois, Dan DeSutter of Indiana and Rodney Rulon of Indiana, all of whom have report improved yields, better soil health, more drought-tolerant fields and more since they began using cover crops on their farms.
And, just as important for cost-sensitive growers anxious about inputs and profitability, cover crops have allowed them to slice other expenses.
“The Rulons spend about $100,000 a year on cover crop seed, or about $26 an acre. But they also saved about $57,000 on fertilizer they no longer needed, and bigger yields mean about $107,000 in extra income.”
Want to know more about using cover crops on your farm? Here are a handful of links to get you started:
Treating Covers Like Cash by Chris Bennett. Initially planting cover crops solely for erosion protection, MikeyTaylor transitioned to soil health covers, and recently to grazing covers in tandem with cattle rotation. On Taylor’s ground in Phillips County, Ark., livestock are the vehicle to building higher potential soils.
Cattle and Cover Crops Collaborate to Improve Farm Fields by Wyatt Bechtel. Cover crops don’t just improve the performance of crop fields; they also make excellent forage for cattle.
Meet Iowa’s Poster Child for Farm Conservation by Associated Press. Steve Berger pulls a bright yellow sponge and a small glass container filled with a silty soil from a box he carries to presentations.
Study Documents Benefits of Covers by Darrell Smith. Cover crops have quickly evolved into another aspect of precision farming, as farmers search for the ideal mixture for each soil and rotation. Does it really matter which one you choose? Early results from a field-scale study, conducted by Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie, suggest it does.
Nebraska Farmers Reaping Bounty from Cover Crop Seeds by Associated Press. A central Nebraska farm is tapping into a growing national interest in cover crops, which were popular in organic circles but a rarity among mainstream row-crop producers.
Rental Agreements for Cover Crop Grazing by Jay Parsons and Mary Drewnoski, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Cover crops are becoming increasing popular throughout Nebraska and the surrounding region. As their name implies, cover crops cover the ground helping prevent soil erosion outside of the growing season for the primary crop. Below ground, cover crops also contribute to soil organic matter. Increasingly, people are looking at the above ground biomass produced by cover crops as a potential source of feed for cattle or other ruminant livestock.
Don't Let Covers Ding a Cash Crop by Darrell Smith. “Cover crop selection begins with choosing a variety or mixture that will achieve your goal for the soil—biological diversity, aggregate stability or whatever,” says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. “Then you narrow your choices to fit your planting window, rotation, herbicide program and geographic location. Finally, look ahead to the following cash crop.”
Minnesota Farmers Try No-Till Cover Crops by Associated Press. Doug Toussaint's field was in critical condition — and he was the one killing it.
Considering a Cover Crop? This Chart Will Help You Choose by Alison Rice. If you’re wondering which cover crop might be best for your farm, you’ll want to check out the Cover Crop Chart from the USDA’s Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory. The interactive PDF outlines more than 50 cover crop options, from alfalfa and clovers to barley, oats, millet and more.