Healthy Soils Matter!
Why should we care about soil health? Roger Marcoot, Conservation Associate with the Bond County Soil and Water Conservation District, explains that healthy soil is important for agriculture and our state’s ability to feed the nation, but it actually has a direct impact on many larger issues that affect life as we know it.
Soil health can improve and regulate water, sustain plant and animal life, filter potential pollutants, cycle nutrients, and support building and structures. Healthy soils hold more water, which can reduce flooding and help with drought. Healthy soils also resist runoff and erosion, they suppress weeds and pests naturally, and sustain our precious natural resources.
Simply put, healthy soils are productive soils and they are important to every one of us. Cover crops are one way to improve the health of soils. As we plan for next year’s crop production, there are several considerations to take into account as you incorporate cover crops into your plans. Cover crops can be used to reduce erosion, sequester residual nutrients from the soil, and provide a source of animal feed.
Reducing erosion is one of the ways to not only protect our top soil but also reduce phosphorous loss. Here in Southern Illinois reducing phosphorous loss is a priority in the Illinois Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Another priority area is nitrogen loss. Cover crops can take up excess nitrogen in the soil and hold it in the plant resulting in reducing nitrogen loss from leaching and run off.
Cover crops can provide a lot of supplemental feed to livestock producers. Chemical label restrictions for forage consumption need to be considered.
Determining what your goals are for cover crops is the first step. Once your goal is established, decisions can be made about the type of cover crop to be planted. Do you need grasses or broadleaf plants or a combination? When will the harvested crop be off of the field so a cover crop can be planted? What method of establishing a cover crop is best for you?
Begin by identifying priority fields. Highly erodible fields might be a place to start. Consider an earlier maturity for the crop on those fields. This will allow more time for the cover crop to get established. Don’t forget to evaluate your chemical program. Be sure there are no restrictions on planting cover crops, especially if you plan on using them for livestock feed. Finally, think about the crop to be grown in the following year. The crop to be grown the following year may help determine the appropriate cover crop to prevent any antagonistic effects.
Landowners that are interested in assistance with the implementation of a cover crop program please attend the Bond County SWCD Annual Meeting to hear more about Cover Crops and Soil Health from Kris Reynolds with American Farmland Trust. The meeting will be held on February 10, 2017 at Noon at the Bradford Room. Visit www.bondswcd.org to learn more.
To learn more about health soils contact the Bond County Soil and Water Conservation District at 618-664-0555 ext. 3.
Soil Sampling - Call Now
Call now to schedule your field for soil sampling. Allow us to pull the samples and submit them for lab analysis. Or you can drop off your samples and we'll analyze them for you. For more information or to book your appointment call Roger Marcoot at 618-664-0555 ext. 3013 or 618-292-6043.