On the Radio: Cover Crops Work


Photo by NRCS Soil Health; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers the success of cover crop practices in conservation farming. Listen to the audio below or continue reading for the transcript.

From drought, to record spring rains, to an abnormally dry summer, 2013 has been a roller-coaster year for Iowa farmers.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

These types of weather extremes can be very damaging to Iowa’s soils, but conservationists are finding that farmers who apply soil protecting practices, such as cover crops, are the least affected.

Iowa farmers planted about 100,000 acres of cover crops in the fall of 2012. These cover crops increase soil organic matter, water infiltration rates, and limit nitrogen leaching. Cover crops also reduce soil erosion during heavy fall and springtime rains.

Barb Stewart, state agronomist for Natural Resources Conservation Services in Iowa, says the protection that cover crops provide is only part of the erosion-control benefit. Any ground cover protects soils from the beating force of falling raindrops.

Besides cover crops, conservation practices that improve soil health and reduce soil erosion include no-till and crop rotations. The practices that provide the best protection from erosion caused by heavy rains include contour farming, terraces, contour buffer strips, and grassed waterways.

For more information on soil conservation efforts, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

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