Farmers and the environment benefitting from growing cover crops
Cover Crops: Growing Solutions Right Under Our Feet
Sometimes the solutions to recurring problems are right there in front of us. For centuries, farmers have used cover crops to help manage pests, reduce weeds, improve rainfall capture, and enrich soils to produce vegetables and grain.
Cover crops like grasses and legumes are planted over what would otherwise be a barren garden bed or field in between growing seasons for a primary crop. For farmers, after they harvest a primary crop like corn or soybeans, a cover crop can be planted to cover and protect the soil until next year.
Cover Crops Can Produce Nitrogen
Some farmers use cover crops that produce nitrogen, a nutrient that helps make the following year’s crop more bountiful. Cover crops can help make farmers more effective with their use of fertilizer and crop protection products during the growing season, saving time and money and helping to protect the environment.
There’s so much potential to this growing solution. By enabling greater efficiency in the use of fertilizer and other inputs needed to grow our food, cover crops help prevent nutrient loss to waterways and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
COVER CROPS KEEP SOIL HEALTHY
By creating soil structures that retain water better, cover crops may also reduce the effects of drought. The drought in the United States in 2012 was one of the worst in decades. That year, a farmer survey by the Conservation Technology Information Center showed a near 10 percent improvement in harvests when cover crops had been used prior to the drought.
The Role of Cover Crops in Modern Agriculture
New tools and solutions give farmers more options to have a better harvest and maintain farmland. Some solutions, like cover crops, are time-tested and just as useful as they’ve ever been. Others, like digital tools, have evolved as farmers combat issues like climate change and a growing population. Farmers have many choices when it comes to growing crops, and all of these methods have a role to play.
Forward-thinking growers are using their land to provide habitat to pollinators, native plants, and other local wildlife. Learn how practices like cover crops, no-till, and crop rotation are demonstrating how a farm can be a positive influence on the environment.