News Feature 3/7/2013
Cover Crop Soil Health Initiative
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota is encouraging producers to sign up for a special cover crop initiative offered through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Instead of leaving fields bare, producers can enroll acres in the Soil Health (Cover Crop) Initiative to plant cover crops to reduce the probability of erosion, increase soil health, and provide cover and food for many wildlife species.
Producer interested in the initiative should be aware that they will have to plant a multi species mixture of cover crops for five years on the same acres.
Cover crops are grown between regular crop rotations such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. Examples of cover crops are cereal ryegrass, clover, oats, oil seed radishes, and barley. Cover crops are not intended as a harvestable crop, but are grown to enhance productivity. Benefits of cover crops include: improving soil structure by increasing soil organic matter and root penetration; protecting otherwise bare soil from wind and water erosion; using nitrogen left in the soil, preventing sediments and nutrients from polluting waterways; and cycling nutrients back into the soil that will be available for future corn and soybean crops.
EQIP has other scenarios for cover crops including chemical kill, mechanical kill, legume nitrogen fixation, and organic. These scenarios are not a part of the Soil Health Initiative, but can be a valuable addition towards addressing cropland resource concerns.
Landowners interested in planting cover crops should visit the local NRCS office for more information on the best solution for their operation.
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