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What Are Cover Crops?

Cover crops are a crop of a plant that farmers use during the off-season to protect their fields. A cover crop will slow runoff from rainfall and snowmelt which helps prevent soil erosion. Cover crops help maintain the soil quality that farmers have built up for their main crop. They add organic material into the soil and regulate the amount of moisture that says in the soil. Some cover crops are used to add nutrients back into the soil that were drained by the previous crop. Legumes are commonly used to supply nitrogen back into the soil after a plant such as corn which is known for depleting nitrogen quickly. Rye and Winter Wheat are two of the most common cover crops in our area. We plant Winter Wheat in the fall and then harvest in mid-June. Not only will we use the grain from the wheat as seed for the following year but we will bale the straw and use it as bedding for our cattle. A down side to cover crops is more labor is needed in the year to plant care for and harvest the cover crop which is normally planted in a time when labor is limited. Soil is one of the most important factor when it comes to agriculture. If a farmer is growing all the feed they plan to supply their livestock they have to factor in the about of acreage they need in order to plant that about of feed, whether it be grains, hay, silage or pasture. If their soil is not up to par they will struggle to get enough of a yield out of the acreage they have available. Cover crops can improve soil fertility and health by keeping nutrients in the soil before they can leach out into streams or other water sources.

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