Spring is less than six weeks away. Seed packets promising a delightful bounty from drool worthy photos in catalogs have been delivered. Planting diagrams are in full sketch. Growing season is upon us.
Along with soil health, soil moisture is critical for plant growth, especially with impending drought conditions. A practice growing in popularity among small and large scale growers is planting cover crops. Organic growers have been using cover crops or green manure for years successfully. Studies in the past couple of years have shown advantages in crop yield, soil moisture and soil health when cover crops are planted. Check out the Cover Crops Survey supported by NCR-SARE (North Central Region - Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education).
Cover crops can help urban growers maximize food production spaces. Especially in urban areas with pockets of contaminated soil, cover crops can help with bioremediation – removing heavy metals and chemicals from the soil. With water being hard to source in many urban areas, cover crops can help retain soil moisture that should lead to improved food production, better yield, and less stress for the plants. Cover crops are usually planted in the fall to prepare the soil for overwintering and planting next spring. But summer cover crops can also provide tremendous benefits.
To learn more from farmers and practicing experts, check out the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health, jointly funded by the USDA-NIFA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The conference is hosted in Omaha but all on site registrations have been issued. A great option is to visit a forum featuring a live-streamed broadcast of the conference moderated by educators and farmers throughout the country. Forum attendees will have the opportunity to discuss the session topics and provide feedback on maximizing cover crop. An RSVP is required.
If you cannot get to a forum but want to follow on social media, the twitter hashtag is #CoverCrops2014.