Once you chunk into a chunk of Fruit from Frog Hole Farm, and the juice dripping down your chin, wholesome soil might be the very last thing in your thoughts. However that is precisely the place that juicy fruit begins: within the dust. And a technique to enhance soil well being is by planting cowl crops.
What are cowl crops?
Cowl crops are vegetation that flourish within the backyard soil. We let no matter is within the seedbed develop wild. And on choose acreage, we deliberately plant cowl crops underneath a Pure Sources Conservation Service program known as EQIP (quick for Environmental High quality Incentive Program). The advantages of canopy crops, which seem to be weeds to most individuals, are fairly spectacular. They play an necessary function in regenerative agricultural practices and the work we’re doing to offset the consequences of local weather change.
Cowl crops are among the hardest working vegetation on the farm. They assist us:
Scale back runoff and erosion.
Scale back soil compaction.
Add natural matter to the soil.
Hold vitamins, akin to carbon and nitrogen, within the soil.
Foster the microbes that feed our bushes.
Hold the soil porous and entice water within the soil.
Entice useful bugs and wildlife to assist us with pest administration.
Attracts pollinators, akin to bees.
Can cowl crops cut back the necessity for fertilizers?
In idea, sure, cowl crops will help cut back the necessity for fertilizer. Take for instance the beans, peas, and peas that we have now deliberately planted on 84 acres of our farm. Beans, peas and peas are legumes that repair nitrogen within the soil. They take atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into plant-available nitrogen that our bushes can take in. These cowl crops (and different grasses that develop wild all through the farm) are a part of our complete fertilization technique. They do an excellent job of conserving nitrogen (and phosphorus) within the soil. However cowl crops cannot do all of it. Sure, encouraging the expansion of canopy crops improves soil well being. We additionally depend on our fertilization plan, which incorporates annual purposes of gypsum and potash. And we additionally deposit tons and tons of fertilizer all year long.
As you’ll be able to see, fertilization is extra like a symphony and fewer like a monologue. Each ingredient – together with our humble cowl crops – has an necessary function to play.