Healthy Soil, Healthy Crop

March 07, 2017

Healthy Soil, Healthy Crop

Earlier this week the weather was perfect for frost seeding red clover behind our winter wheat. Does that sound like a foreign language to you? Its all about cover crops. Let me explain.

Winter wheat is planted in the fall and begins to sprout before winter hits and brings all plant growth to a screeching halt. As temperatures begin to rise again in early spring, the winter wheat will continue to grow until we harvest it in the summer. By the time we are harvesting the wheat, the red clover will have already taken root and started to grow in behind the wheat (you can see this process in action in the videos here: Wheat Harvest at Sanderson Farms). Once the red clover is mature, we will harvest it to make hay for the cows to eat the following winter. (Typically, cover crops are not harvested. However, for our farm operation we can use this particular cover crop for feed; an added bonus to our bottom line while still reaping the soil building benefits of the clover plant.)

This is an example of how we use cover crops to improve the health of the soil on our farm. This cycle of continuous growth and live root systems adds organic matter back into the soil, keeps weeds at bay, reduces soil and water erosion, and adds biodiversity to our farm. Healthy soil grows healthy crops.

Trent Sanderson

Trent farms with his family in northern Illinois He also enjoys learning and educating other farmers about the environmental benefits of cover crops. He lives near the farm with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son Owen.

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