Cover Crops - An Essential Tool for Sustainable Cropping Systems
The use of cover crops is steadily increasing throughout the United States. Many no-till farmers consider cover crops to be the next step in conservation agriculture.
Leaving the soil undisturbed and keeping something growing as many days as possible restores the natural cycles of the soils. Residues and roots create more organic matter in the soils. Increased organic matter serves as a food source to various soil organisms and increases the biological activity. Higher biological activity increases nutrient cycling and availability and also reduces nutrient loss due to run off. With all this activity, soil structure and tilth are improved, increasing infiltration rates and reducing compaction.
Click here to see the benefits of implementing cover crops.
CTIC recently received a Grant from EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that will fund the promotion of cover crops and conservation tillage in the Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan Watersheds. Agricultural producers will be provided with technical, educational and social support which will work together to create strong cover crop and conservation tillage systems that can be sustained after the project ends.
This project, funded by a 2008 Conservation Innovation Grant, promotes the use of cover crops to ease farmers’ transition to use of continuous no-till. In 2004, the National Crop Residue Management survey indicated that only 22.6 percent of farmers were no-tilling. Attempting continuous no-till (CNT) without proper technical knowledge may cause a disastrous first year and taint opinions toward the practice. Potential economic risks and yield losses during the first five years also can cause farmers to resist CNT.