Dewey County Farmer Praises Benefits of Cover Crops and Soil Health During Wet and Dry YearsTue, 08 Dec 2015 17:51:09 CST
No-till crop production and cover crops have shown their benefits in protecting the soil and saving moisture in drought, but they have also shown their benefits in a wet year as well. Jimmy Emmons of Leedey, Oklahoma has seen multiple years of drought, then this year's wet year. In both cases, he has seen these concepts work on his farm.
"That's the great thing about a cover crop and soil health, you can infiltrate a lot more water," Emmons said.
In planting cover crops and using a no-till system, Emmons has been able to build organic matter in his fields. His latest data has shown they have been able to double their organic matter over the past two years. By increasing organic matter, he has been able to increase the water holding capacity of his soil. That allows more of the rain soak in and less of it to runoff. Emmons said this not only captures more water, but also improves the water quality downstream.
In trying to build organic matter, Emmons has been planting grasses, like Egyptian wheat, millets or sorghum-sudangrass. He said those are high carbon materials that improve soil organic matter. If farmers plan on following their cover crop with a traditional crop, he recommends planting more legumes in the cover crop mix to increase nutrients and lower fertilizer demands the following year.
The combination of no-till crop production and cover crops have been used to decrease soil erosion, lower soil temperature and decrease moisture evaporation. Emmons has seen how these two concepts work together on his Dewey County farm. On their plots this past year, he said the soil moisture probes measured 3.9 inches more water in rotating with cover crops versus no-till wheat stubble. He said this year that made 12 to 15 more bushels of grain, which truly adds to the bottom-line for farmers.
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