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Jeffrey Woods

352-338-9515


Farmers Rediscover Cover Crops and Conservation Planning

Old Practices Taking Root

Gainesville, FL., August 23, 2013 –It’s something old and something new. It’s something borrowed and something…well, green.  Cover cropping, a traditional conservation practice considered old-fashioned by many in modern agriculture, is being “borrowed” and used in new ways by innovative farmers to improve their soil’s health, and with it, the health of their businesses’ bottom lines.

“Today’s agricultural producers are rediscovering how to make cover crops work on their farms, with some impressive results,” says Mimi Williams, state conservation agronomist and plant materials specialist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Florida.  “Producer bottom lines are improved when cover crops are used by suppressing weeds and reducing pesticide use.”

In addition, legume cover crops provide essentially free nitrogen which reduces fertilizer costs. Increased soil organic matter from these cover crops slows rainfall filtering through the ground and improves water holding capacity, which reduces irrigation costs.

Over the last five years interest in cover crops has surged, driven by many interacting factors such as those mentioned above plus cover crop cost-share programs and new GPS-guidance technologies that enable new ways of using cover crops.

This is where the USDA NRCS can help.  Through technical assistance, conservation planning, and conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program NRCS is working to help farmers adapt those practices to their farms.

NRCS is making an extra effort to show Florida agricultural producers how conservation planning can help your land's natural resources. We are encouraging farmers and ranchers to come in to our office and request help developing your conservation plan. Creating a conservation plan is a free service from our experts in conserving water, improving air quality, and reducing soil erosion. It’s your plan to use as you wish – a guide to using your natural resources more efficiently.

Cover crops are just one option in a conservation plan.  Good soil health management plans offer a variety of on-farm benefits and options for building organic matter, increasing the soil’s water-holding capacity, and suppressing pests, diseases and weeds. And the benefits of improved soil health extend beyond the farm.

The public also benefits when producers manage their soil health because soils that allow increased infiltration and have good water-holding capacity reduce runoff that causes flooding. Improved infiltration also keeps nutrients and sediment from being carried off-site into nearby lakes, rivers, and streams.

Agricultural producers can request technical assistance and develop a conservation plan at any time. Our mission is providing science-based conservation assistance for the management of natural resources; for present and future generations.

Additional information on NRCS, conservation assistance, and programs is available on the web at www.fl.nrcs.usda.gov or at your local USDA - NRCS office. To find the nearest office go to your telephone directory under “U. S. Government, Department of Agriculture”, or http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app.

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