Posted date: Apr 13, 2021

by: Admin My Local Life

Written by Fred Wedel, Retired NRCS District Conservationist

What are cover crops? Cover crops are grown for the protection and enrichment of the soil. In Agriculture, cover crops are used to cover and protect the soil rather than to be harvested.

Cover crops are used to manage cropland and reduce soil erosion, improve soil fertility, improve soil quality, improve water storage, reduce pressure from weeds, pests and diseases, and improve biodiversity and wildlife in an agroecosystem.

A cover crop is grown between the harvest of a main crop and the next main crop. Cover crops are grown to return back to the soil, and not be exported from a field. This process increases the amount of organic matter in the soil.

Soil is composed of five ingredients; minerals, soil organic matter, living organisms including earthworms, gas, and water. The soil is called a pedosphere and has four functions: 1) a medium for plant growth 2) a means of water storage, supply and purification 3) a modifier of Earth’s atmosphere (see the latest research here) and 4) a habitat for organisms.

The following is a list of some benefits that growing a crop year-round provides:
1. Reduces soil erosion from wind and water
2. Improve soil health and organic matter content
3. Suppresses weed pressure and pest cycles
4. Reduces water quality degradation by utilizing excessive nutrients
5. Improves soil moisture use efficiency
6. Minimizes and breaks up soil compaction

Cover crops are a multi-year investment. Because soil health has been reduced over many years, it takes time to improve soil organic matter, soil structure, bring back healthy soil organisms and increase earthworm populations. It is always wise to use a multi-species cover crop mix that includes brassica species. Plant as soon after harvest as possible and terminate in a timely manner prior to the next crop. Always follow crop insurance guidelines and criteria.

The bottom line is, after multiple years of reduced tillage combined with the use of cover crops, crop yields increase, and most importantly, soil health and organic matter content increases. This is also because of improved soil health and more beneficial living organisms and earthworms in the soil.

When you, as a food producer, are interested in growing a cover crop call your local NRCS Field Office. A staff member will be glad to help you plan a successful cover crop rotation. Some cost share programs are available.

Click on photos to view slide show
Other Articles You Might Be Interested In
Job's Daughter's Cupcake Decorating Challenge
On Sunday, Feb 19th @ 1 pm, our local Bethel of Job's Daughters will be holding a cupcake decorating challenge.

If you think you have decorating skills and want to flex those skills for a cash prize, this is your event.

Gather your team of 2-3 people, ages 12 - 18, and register to show off your cupcake decorating skills and win cash prizes. The cash prizes are for the top 3 teams whose entries are picked by the judges to be the best.

The event will be held at the Saint Francis Mason
The start of winter Farmer's Markets, and just in time for Christmas
On Saturday, December 17th, there will be a Farmer's Market held at 218 West Washington St. From 10 until 2.

The Farmer's Market Board has responded to multiple requests from vendors and customers alike with plans to hold Farmer's Markets once a month through the off-season (October through May). The first being on the 17th of December, in hopes of making available vendor's product you may want to give as Christmas presents.

Moving forward, there will be a Farmer's Mark
Thermal Greenhouse
Kriss Harris is has built a small thermal green house that is growing healthy greens this early in the year. Rich healthy greens are wonderful through the spring and summer and even more of a delight in the middle of winter. The greenhouse is small, was built with scrap material and only 4 feet deep but is working very well. It goes to show how we can supplement our diet and health with just a little effort. One way to counter the effects of chemicals in our air, water and soil is to strengthen
Conservation District Working Group Meeting
The Goodland Management Unit, Sherman County, Cheyenne County, and Wallace County Conservation Districts will be hosting a Local Working Group (LWG) meeting on Tuesday, February 14th, at 10:00 am Mountain Standard Time /11:00 am Central Standard Time at 210 West 10th (USDA) Service Center in Goodland, KS.

The purpose of this meeting is to make recommendations to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist related to addressing natural resource concerns at a local l
Playa Wetland
What is a playa? Playas are small, shallow, intermittent wetlands that are disconnected from rivers, streams and lakes. They only fill with water as a result of rain, snow or runoff from nearby land. Playas can remain filled with water from a month to all season long. Kansas has nearly 22,000 playas. They are in the western half of the state. Playas are also called mud holes, buffalo wallows or lagoons.

Wetland playas have the general characteristics: soggy soils, water-loving plants,
Future Leadership Training Classes in Cheyenne County
There is a group of leaders in Cheyenne, Rawlins, Sherman and Thomas Counties that held discussions with K State Extension, Hansen Foundation and the Kansas Leadership Center regarding support for establishing sustainable leadership programs in these four counties. The first Community Builders class was held in Cheyenne County in 2007 and the last of four classes was held nine years ago in 2012. Close to 80 county residents participated in these classes. The original eight trainers have eithe
Rangeland Fencing
Written By Fred Wedel, retired NRCS District Conservationist
Photos By Cale Rieger, NRCS Natural Resource Specialist

Proper fence is needed for grazing livestock in a rotational grazing system. As mentioned before, a rest-rotation grazing system is essential for properly managing grazing systems in the western Kansas area of short grass and mid-grass prairie.

Many perimeter fences are 3 or 4 strands of barbed wire. Interior cross-fences are usually a single smooth wire. The interior fe