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Posts tagged: cover crops

Discover the Cover: Farmers Realize Benefits, Challenges of Soil-Improving Cover Crops

Todd and Arliss Nielsen inspect their ryegrass cover crop in Wright County, Iowa. USDA photo.

Todd and Arliss Nielsen inspect their ryegrass cover crop in Wright County, Iowa. USDA photo.

A growing number of farmers throughout the nation have “discovered the cover” — and for some very good reasons.

They’re recognizing that by using cover crops and diverse rotations, it’s possible to actually improve the health and function of their soil, said David Lamm, a soil health expert with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Farmers are also reaping the benefits healthy soils bring to their operations in the form of better nutrient cycling, improved water infiltration and more consistent yields over time. Read more »

Secretary Visits Virginia Farm, Announces Progress on Effort to Reduce Farm Sediment Runoff into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

 

NRCS Illustration showing a substantial reduction in farm runoff entering the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

NRCS Illustration showing a substantial reduction in farm runoff entering the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited a Virginia Century Farm in Stafford County to release a new report that shows how farmers like Gerry Silver are helping make significant progress in reducing sediment and nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The Secretary lauded Silver Ridge Farm as a gold standard for conservation because the owners have implemented voluntary conservation practices such as cover crops and no-till planting to control soil erosion and prevent the release of nitrogen and phosphorus into area waterways.  Though the family has kept the land in continuous agricultural use for more than 100 consecutive years, he called the operation a “farm of the future” because the family has continued to evolve their operation over time to maintain productivity and diversify income opportunities. Read more »

USDA Celebrates Soil’s Importance on its Special Day

In this photo from the 2009 Society for Range Management (SRM) Award tour, Soil Quality Specialist, Rick Bednarek, formerly of SD, explained the darkness of the soil was due to the organic matter which is the key indicator of the health of soil.

In this photo from the 2009 Society for Range Management (SRM) Award tour, Soil Quality Specialist, Rick Bednarek, formerly of SD, explained the darkness of the soil was due to the organic matter which is the key indicator of the health of soil.

Too often, it’s treated like dirt. But this week our living and life-giving soil is finally getting some of the respect it deserves today, for World Soils Day.

While soil may not enjoy the media attention of Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s, it can be argued that it shares importance with all three. Where would we be without soil?

This amazing resource is responsible for nearly all life on the planet. Naturalist Aldo Leopold describes soil perfectly, saying: “Land is not merely soil, it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.” Read more »

Mimic Nature to Harvest Benefits of Healthy Soil, Expert Says

NRCS joins others to celebrate World Soil Day on Dec. 5.

NRCS joins others to celebrate World Soil Day on Dec. 5.

In the minds of many, a freshly tilled field is picturesque – clean and ready for the next planting. But according to a soil health expert, what looks good to the eye, isn’t always good for the soil – or a farmer’s bottom line.

Thursday, on World Soil Day, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating the importance of healthy soils and sharing how farmers and ranchers can help care for it through conservation practices like no-till.

When soil is heavily tilled, the stalks from the previous crop are chopped, and the top several inches of soil structure are disturbed. Conventional thought suggests this fluffing action allows for better seed placement, but Ray Archuleta, NRCS conservation agronomist, said that no-till systems, especially when combined with cover crops, are better – and lead to healthier, more drought-resistant soil.

Read more »

Risk Management Tools Help Farmers Create a More Environmentally Sustainable Future

Good risk management tools aid in conservation efforts and help protect beautiful views like this for the next generation. USDA photo.

Good risk management tools aid in conservation efforts and help protect beautiful views like this for the next generation. USDA photo.

American producers know that crop insurance is a proven tool for managing the risks of farming.  But many folks may not be aware that it also promotes sound practices that encourage environmental sustainability.

One of the primary reasons the Federal crop insurance program is good for conservation is that it requires producers to exercise good farming practices in order to be eligible for coverage.  Good farming practices vary from crop to crop and from region to region, but follow the principle that the farming practices carried out are considered prudent and responsible by local extension agents and certified crop consultants. And this means planning for the long-term future, not just the current crop year. Read more »

Cover Crops Improve Soil & Provide Food for Cattle

The Bremmer family has raised cattle and grown crops in northwestern Illinois for more than a century. Over time, they’ve found ways to improve their operation — the latest improvement is the use of cover crops.

Brothers Ross and Chad Bremmer, fourth-generation farmers, are already seeing the benefits of cover crops — healthy food for their cattle, less erosion and an increase in the soil’s water-storage capacity.

The brothers worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to find the best cover crops for their land. They were looking for a cover crop that helped the soil while providing good sustenance for their cattle. Read more »