Do you integrate cover crops in your fields and focus on maintaining a living plant in the soil for as long as possible every year?
In addition to minimizing tillage, incorporating cover crops into your fields may be one of the most important practices to implement after addressing your soil compaction issues. It is critical to increasing your farm net profitability in the long term.
Farmers who are aware of the importance of cover crops understand the benefits, which include more efficient nutrient cycling, increased water infiltration rates and water retention levels, increased soil erosion control and increased soil organic matter levels. Critical components of the soil food web such as mycorrhizal fungi require a living root to attach to in order to receive the root exudates they need to survive. In return, they supply the plant with necessary nutrients that plants in fields without an active soil food web cannot access, especially phosphorus and potassium. This reduces the need for synthetic fertilizer applications, lowering overall fertilizer input costs.
CaluSolv’s Accelerated Regenerative Agriculture system recommends incorporating cover crops wherever possible in your farming operations. Cover crops can be a revenue generating addition to your farming operation with proper planning. CaluSolv’s program recommends starting with a small amount of acreage when beginning to incorporate cover crops in order to learn how best to plant, terminate and manage cover crops in your operation to achieve your desired goals. Start with a simple blend with a legume to fix nitrogen and solubilize nutrients from the soil, other plants like buckwheat that solubilize phosphorus, a plant species like radish or turnips that have big taproots to scavenge and hold nutrients in the soil and a cereal or grass species with a deep, fibrous root system to breakup compaction. This type of mix can help relieve soil compaction, continue to feed your microbial workforce, and provide an organic nitrogen source for the cash crop to be planted following the cover crop, reducing the amount of synthetic nitrogen needed.
Incorporating cover crops may require modifying existing equipment to terminate a cover crop. If you are going to use a spray to terminate a cover crop, CaluSolv recommends using a biologically friendly spray (always ask if what you are going to apply to a field is helpful or damaging to the soil microbes). CaluSolv can provide additional information on options if you are interested.
Sources for information on how to plan, select and incorporate cover crops include:
Green Cover Seeds – Soil Health Resource Guide
This resource guide also includes numerous helpful articles on regenerative farming.
No-Till Cover Crops Handbook – 2022
Helpful handbook that covers equipment questions, planting techniques and cover crop species selection for your desired goals.