I am using a modeling approach to answer questions about the ability of cover crops to mitigate climate risks, as described in a recent video produced in collaboration with the Sustainable Corn Project communication team.
The conservation community of researchers, farmers and practitioners champion the use of cover crops in the Midwest for numerous environmental benefits: reducing water pollution, nutrient recycling, weed suppression, erosion prevention, providing livestock feed, you name it. We also hear anecdotes about cover crops protecting the soil in periods of heavy rain, but what about cover crops in the context of climate change? This question is a priority for researchers on the Sustainable Corn project. Climate scientists have documented increases in precipitation intensity over the last several decades in the Midwest, and they anticipate even more in the future. So, can cover crops help mitigate those climate risks? Continue reading →
Dick started planting a rye cover crop in 2011 to improve his Soil Conditioning Index following soybeans and in two years made a commitment to planting multi-species nitrogen scavenging cover crops on all of his 720 rotated crop acres. To diversify his cropping system and ensure availability of winter small grains, Dick planted 13 acres of rye for harvest in 2013 and expanded to 20 acres in 2014. This Fall he planted 10 acres of winter wheat in addition to the 20 acres of rye for harvest in 2015. This will provide Dick with the majority of his cover crop seed, provide an alternative to his corn/corn/soybean rotation, reduce costs by growing legumes after small grain harvest, increasing sustainability and resilience.
Matt Liebman, and his research group at Iowa State University, has been conducting long-term research comparing two-, three- and four-year crop rotations. His recent work shows that extended crop rotations can lead to a reduced reliance on herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizer, and less use of fossil fuels. A Leopold Center On the Ground Video by Matt provides some insight into the topic he will be discussing on Tuesday evening.
This Farminar will be a great opportunity to gain some insight from a farmer and researcher about the opportunities and obstacles to adding a third crop to the typical corn and soybean rotation. Dick and Matt are both enthusiastic about extending and improving cropping systems to improve economic and environmental performance.
This spring I had the pleasure of interviewing a diverse group of established cash crop farmers for a Sustainable Corn Project video. These farmers strongly recommended purchasing crop insurance. Farmers run the risk of losing a large amount of money in just one or two growing seasons, but crop insurance will help cover this potential loss. These farmers also emphasized stewardship: taking good care of the soil for profitability, for sustainability, and for future generations who will farm that soil. Some of these farmers also suggested that young farmers consider farm management practices that build crop resiliency to minimize the potential impacts of extreme weather.
What advice would YOU give to young farmers? What would you tell a young person who wants to go into farming in the future? (Click on the “conversation bubble” above or leave a comment below to share a suggestion.)