“In the farming community “cover crop” is a buzzword, and for a good reason. Adding a cover crop to your farm means you are extending the amount of time there is something growing in that soil and that adds many other benefits,” according to Lisa Kubik, a field manager with the Soil Health Partnership.
The obvious benefit is improved soil health, but what does that really mean? Improving soil health increases porosity, water holding capacity and builds the structure within the soil. With more pores within the soil, your crop’s roots are better able to proliferate and establish a good root system to support the plant throughout the entire growing season, she says in a new blog.
More pore spaces also mean that when the weather turns dry, the soil has a pore structure waiting to soak in the rainfall and store it until your crops are in need. With that water-absorbing better within the soil, this also reduces the chance for ponding or flooding within the field which could eventually affect flooding downstream.
Cover crops can also improve field conditions. What is an extra day of planting worth to you? What about spraying? Or harvesting? In some areas this spring, one extra day was the difference between planting a cash crop or coming back later with preventive planting. Many of our Soil Health Partnership (SHP) farmers say that due to their transition to a no-till (or strip-till) + cover crop system, they are oftentimes in the field one to three days before their neighbors that till.
Kubik goes on to detail other benefits like improved weed control, reduced erosion, breaking up compaction, uptake of excess nutrients and increased grazing days related to cover crops. Check out her blog to get more details on benefits and if you are unsure of what cover crop to plant? Click here to review your options.