A Blanket for My Crops
April 12, 2018
One of the most important things I do on the farm is keeping soil healthy. Healthy soil means healthy crops. One way we do this is through cover crops. These are crops such as rye, radishes and clover that we plant in the fall and leave in the ground until planting the following spring. We will never harvest these crops, but they improve our soil health by protecting it from wind and water erosion and adding valuable nutrients to the soil for the crops that will grow there next year.
Think of it like a blanket for the soil. These crops are carefully selected based on specific goals for each individual field and each individual farmer. We do our research and choose the best mix of cover crops for our farm’s needs. Sustainable practices are important to us, and adding cover crops to our fields have resulted in many advantages including:
- Less pesticides used
- Less fertilizer needed
- Improved soil health
- Fewer trips across the field and less fuel used
Underneath the cover-crop-protected soil is a complex system of microorganisms, and for the best soil, we want to keep them alive and healthy. Those cover crops keep them alive throughout the winter and help keep nutrients in the ground - and nutrients in the ground means a better crop.
Right now, cover crops are a sustainability tool on our farm that are working really hard for us, and we’re seeing great results, but we’re always learning and evolving. I am looking forward to seeing my farm improve with the use of cover crops each year and learning about even more ways we can help the soil grow food, feed and fuel for us.
Matt lives and farms in Dwight, IL with his wife and their three children.
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