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Cover Crops

Cover Crops

By Robert C. Schiffner, Resource Conservationist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Hays, Kansas

Cover crops are the latest buzzword for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), from the Chief of the agency all the way down to the field office. Many farmers have begun to adopt cover crops into their cropping rotations. Cover crops can improve soil health by helping to develop an environment that sustains and nourishes plants, soil microbes, and beneficial insects.

Healthy soil can increase crop production, increase profits, reduce costs, and protect our natural resources, such as soil, air, and water. Adopting a soil health management system can increase organic matter, increase soil organisms, reduce soil compaction, and improve nutrient storage and cycling. Plus, healthy soils absorb and retain more water making them less susceptible to runoff and erosion. This means more water will be available for crops when they need it. Soil health management systems improve soil conditions, allowing farmers to spend less money on fuel and energy while benefiting from higher crop yields. Managing for soil health is one of the easiest and most effective ways for farmers to increase crop productivity and profitability while improving the environment.

NRCS is working on a national effort to educate ourselves, customers, and the public about the positive impacts soil health management systems can have on both productivity and conservation. Field offices have tools available that will assist participants with evaluating cover crop mixes and help them come up with a mix that will focus on the needs of the soil.

For more information on cover crops and their benefits to soil health, please contact your local NRCS office or conservation district office located at your local county USDA Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at offices.usda.gov). More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.