If you work with agriculture, chances are, you already know that growing crops isn’t just a one-season job. While you may be familiar with the need to get your soil in prime condition for the growing period, did you know that it’s just as important to care for your soil after your harvest?
One of the best ways you can maintain your soil’s health is by utilizing cover crops. These special crops have a ton of benefits for farmers, including eliminating the need for pesticides.
What is a cover crop and how can it help your land? Read on to learn more about this popular technique and why you should consider implementing it in your fields.
What is a cover crop?
Cover crops are plants that are secondary in important to your main crop. Specifically, their primary purpose isn’t to produce food or generate income. Instead, cover crops are planted with the goal of improving the condition of your soil, replenishing the nutrients that the primary crop may have depleted.
Example cover crops include ryegrass, oats, and certain types of clover. While some cover crops may be edible, their number one reason for existing is to be tilled into the soil and actually form a sort of mulch.
Why are they better than pesticides?
It’s no secret that many pesticides have dangerous side effects. The worst cases have pesticide issues have resulted in people falling into comas and even dying if the pesticides are absorbed by their bodies. Milder side effects can include reactions like coughing and irritation to the eyes and throat.
Cover crops offer a less risky way to keep pests from munching on your crops, not to mention saving you money on the expense of pricey chemicals. But how does planting a cover crop affect insect levels the following year?
Cover crops invite helpful organisms in.
You likely know all about the typically “bad” creatures to have around your crops. From aphids to certain worm species, these pests can wreak havoc on your harvest when they’re present in large numbers.
By planting the right cover crops in your fields, you’ll actually encourage the presence of what are known as “natural enemies.” These enemies, such as ground beetles and lady bugs, antagonize (i.e., feed upon) pests but are the farmer’s friend! They’ll help keep pest numbers in check without the need for any harmful chemicals.
The benefits of cover crops are plentiful.
Cover crops don’t just act as natural pest-prevention products, however. They offer a multitude of other advantages and for this reason, they’re seen as a better alternative than leaving your fields cropless.
Save yourself the hassle of dealing with weeds in an empty field. The roots put down by cover crops take up space that weeds can’t. Certain cover crops even contain properties that are referred to as “allelopathic,” which means they naturally inhibit the growth of weeds around them.
Cover crops are useful for preserving the integrity of a soil’s structure. When these plants grow, they create substantial cover for the soil, helping to lessen the damaging effect rain can have on an empty field. Without cover crops, the soil erodes much faster and causes water from the field to run off into nearby streams, potentially affecting the overall water quality in the area.
Over time, the amount of nutrients in a field can decrease. Cover crops offer a convenient way to help improve the health of that same soil. Since cover crops are typically tilled back into the soil, they add significant amounts of organic matter back into the field. This organic matter can include both nutrients and beneficial organisms.