Oklahoma Farmer Finds Cover Crops Save Moisture, Improve Soil Health and Increase ProfitabilityThu, 13 Aug 2015 18:03:28 CDT
Cover crops are increasing in popularity in the Southern Plains region. Farmers are finding more benefits to growing cover crops than just providing ground cover and conserving soil moisture. Caddo County farmer Alan Mindemann said cover crops are effective in improving soil health and organic matter.
In farming around Apache, Oklahoma, Mindemann said a lot of the native soils had about four percent organic matter. In the tilled areas, he said a lot of the organic matter has fallen to one percent or lower. His operation has been in continuous no-till for the past 20 years. He said he has been able to increase his organic matter to about three percent. This has improved his productivity, nutrient efficiency and the soil’s water holding capacity.
“We’ve seen tremendous results in crops,” Mindemann said. “We can easily grow two crops in one year, we can plant things after wheat harvest and because of the moisture holding capacity of my soils, I can catch and use almost all of the rainfall that I get.”
In planting cover crops, Mindemann often plants a “cocktail” or a variety of different cover crops at one time. In trying to mimic native range, he recommends planting a mixture of legumes, grasses and broad leaf varieties to help develop the biology in the soil.
Cover crops also work well for diversified operations. Mindemann has found it’s easy to plant warm season forage cover crops after wheat harvest. This allows livestock producers to stock pile their native range for the winter months.
The benefits of cover crops has gained the support of many, including the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Farm Foundation, NFP and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) with the “Soil Health Initiative”. This week, Mindemann was of the stakeholders involved in a Strategic Planning Roundtable at the Noble Foundation that focused on cover crops and no-till. Mindemann said he sees cover crops as a tool to increase the efficiency and profitability of farming operations, but more needs to be done in understanding the interactions of cover crops.
“I need to know what cover or forage mix works best for the land, what works best for the cattle, what works best for the next crop,” Mindemann said. “Those are the things that I really need to know, how can I fine tune this whole system to enhance the productivity of my crops.”
Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Mindemann at the Noble Foundation roundtable. Click or tap on the LISTENBAR below to listen to the full interview.
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