May 2023 Newsletter – Cover Crops and other Conservation Practices
Conservation Practice: Cover Crops
One of the conservation practices we fund through our Conservation Cost-Share Program is the use of cover crops. Cover crops are a secondary crop planted after the main crop (e.g. corn or soybeans) is harvested. The second crop doesn’t generate a product but it does help build soil health by reducing erosion, providing food for microorganisms in the soil, and building organic matter.
Two of the main threats to Lake Monroe are sediments and nutrients. Both are reduced through the use of cover crops which help hold the soil in place during the winter months. This photo of a demonstration done at the Brown County Soil & Water Conservation District Annual Meeting shows how runoff from land planted with cover crops is much clearer than runoff from bare soil. (Many thanks to Cara Bergschneider and Doris Scully with NRCS for running the demonstration!)
While there are many plant species that can be used as cover crops, probably the most common in the Lake Monroe watershed is cereal rye. Cereal rye has super fibrous roots to improve soil stability and it also can be planted very late into the fall. This gives flexibility to farmers who harvest their crops late in the season or are so busy harvesting that it takes a few weeks to come back around to plant cover crops. Other popular cover crops include wheat, oats, radish, and clover.
If you know a farmer in the Lake Monroe watershed, please make sure they know about our Conservation Cost-Share Program. This program provides funding for conservation practices and is a great way for a farmer to try out something new like cover crops. Contact Maggie Sullivan at email@example.com or 812-558-0217 for more information.