Cover Crops are not new in farming, but they are finally getting the attention they deserve.
Cover Crop Exchange is here to provide resources, expert advice and the seed you need to get your farm or garden on the right track, and at a fraction of the cost.
Running a modern day farming operation is no easy task, but we are here to share the benefits of cover crop use for the health of the soil, your crops, and the planet.
Check out our list of frequently asked questions. Don’t see what you are looking for? Ask your own below.
Cover crops offer an array of benefits to your operation but here is what it boils down to...Cover crops are simply any plant that is used to capture energy from the sun and utilize that energy to increase soil carbon levels, cycle nutrients efficiently and effectively, maximize water infiltration and holding capacity, and to protect the soil surface from erosion, weather events, and animal/machine impact.
The foundation of productive soils is the interaction between the sun, plants, biology, and soil minerals. Plants are the bridge between the energy of the sun and the biology that are truly nature’s fertility managers. The cornerstone of regenerative agriculture is the ability to increase net profit per acre while increasing the resiliency and productivity of your farm year after year.
When we honestly ask ourselves what we want out of our farms...the answer we hear most often is financial abundance combined with security. What are you doing to assure that you have both in your operation?
If you have cattle as part of your farming operation, utilizing cover crops is a no brainer. Why only utilize your ground for 5-6 months out of the year when you could be feeding your cows from the same ground that you are already paying for the remaining 6 months of the year? Every acre that you farm could potentially be part time "pasture" and part time row crops. When we start stacking enterprises (ie. row crops combined with annual forages) we can realize the true profit potential that each acre has the capacity to produce. Don’t leave anything on the table when it comes to your farm's success and your personal finances. Being an excellent steward of the land and making more money can go hand in hand!
Similar to a large farming operation, most gardens only have living roots in the ground for 5-6 months out of the year. Utilizing cover crops in your garden is a great way to increase plant available nutrients throughout the “off season,” to be utilized by whatever fruits and vegetables you plant following a cover crop.
Another great aspect to using cover crops in the garden is the ability to create good soil structure without having to till or work the ground every year. In our experience, utilizing cover crops has allowed our growers to spend more time planting and focusing on maintaining crop quality, and spend less time on tilling, watering, and weeding throughout the season. While no-till gardening is a foreign concept to many gardeners, we have found it to be a key aspect to raising more food, in less time, and of a higher quality. We live in a fast paced world in which time is becoming more and more valuable. Our goal is to help you grow more food for you and your family, spend less time tending your garden, and ultimately end up with higher quality, nutrient dense fruits and vegetables.
Yes! They can reduce purchased fertilizer use in two ways. Cover crops capture and retain nutrients that would otherwise be lost during the off season due to leaching, erosion, and conversion into unavailable forms. Along with capturing and recycling inputs that you have already paid for and applied to your fields, cover crops have the ability to convert nutrients and minerals that are naturally present in your soil but in a form that is unavailable for plant use, and turn those into nutrients that are readily available to your crops. The beauty of capitalizing on the interaction between the sun, plants, and biology to fertilize your cash crops is the fact that nutrients are made available at just the right time, in just the right amounts, and in a form that plants prefer and thrive on. When we realize the importance of this, we can begin to talk about:
Although there has been a lot of hype the past few years over the use of cover crops, they are nothing new. It is a practice that farmers have been utilizing for thousands of years. The difference now is that we have the knowledge and science to begin to understand how soils function and the interaction between plants, geology, and soil microbes. This understanding allows us to be more intentional about building soil health while at the same time maintaining and even increasing crop yields.
Because we cannot afford to ignore the important role that cover crops play in a regenerative farming operation!
Increased crop yields that are of a higher quality, produced with less and less inputs... soils that hold more water with better structure... reduced soil loss due to wind and rain erosion... increased net profit per acre! This is why everyone is talking about cover crops. Our goal is not to follow the latest "trends in farming", our goal is to help you manage your farm in a way that facilities high yields, quality crops, environmentally friendly practices, and most importantly, more money in your pocket! Crop yields only matter when they translate into profit at the end of the year.
The goal is to have living roots in the ground at all times when possible. This means that we should be planting cover crops whenever we have a window between cash crops where fields would otherwise sit fallow. Planting cover crops in an annual cropping rotation involves planting annual and biennial species during and after harvesting the cash crop. In this sort of annual rotation, you would plant cover crops on a yearly basis to keep living roots in the ground as much as possible throughout the entire growing season.
Yes! If you grow seed that is not protected under the PVP Act and does not contain patented gene technology, you can absolutely save seed year-to-year to save costs and adapt certain varieties to local climates. This is the foundation of producing seed that performs well in your specific region. Replanting seeds makes the cost factor of planting cover crops on a year to year basis no longer an issue.
You can absolutely sell seed that is not protected under the PVP act or containing patented genes. Our ultimate goal is facilitate the transaction between local growers and local buyers so that seed is bought and sold between neighbors.
Who cares what you neighbors think...do they pay your bills? When trying something new or different, you will always have individuals that will be negative about the idea of change. How can we know what works best on our farms without doing our own experiments and trying different practices? You will find pretty quickly that individuals who may have been hesitant to change, will soon be asking you questions about what you are doing and asking for advice.
Give us a call. Every farm operation is unique and so is the way in which it is managed. We are here to help you with a comprehensive plan of action to start down a path of regenerative, profitable farming.