Farm Favorite Friday: My growing love for cover crops

It all started when Eric Johnston came to work at AgriEnergy Resources as an agronomist nearly a year ago. While visiting customers in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Ohio, Eric was awakened to a whole new world.

A world filled with cover crops, which is proving to be one of his favorite parts of farming. And for good reason.

He farms row crops alongside his family near Tiskilwa, Illinois and is always on the look out on how to best increase yield potential year after year.

Meet Eric:

Rolled Rye

“Yes I had read about them in ag magazines, but had never personally seen cover crops growing in fields or talked with the cutting edge producers who were implementing them into their farm systems. Heck one of our customers in Indiana had alternated Austrian winter peas and radishes in 30 inch rows. This year he was going to use RTK to plant corn in the middle of these rows. Another of our customers from Wisconsin planted some fields with cereal rye. He let the cereal rye get to 3-4 foot tall this spring and then no till planted soybeans into it (pictured to the right).

Then he used his roller crimper to knock down the rye. Notice the weed control – this field had no herbicide on it!! And we just got word that it yielded very well also.

Visiting our customer’s farms, talking with farmers, and of course reading about cover crop use has me hooked. I fell for them hard and there’s no looking back.

Johnston Cereal Rye

We drilled in cereal rye following the combine on some of our fields this fall. We also flew on (by helicopter) some oats and radishes into standing corn. All of the cover cropped fields are looking great so far and I cant help but get giddy when I drive by or walk these fields.

I don’t understand why more farmers aren’t trying to implement cover crops into their farming systems. To have living roots in the soil throughout the year can only do good things. These roots release root exudates in the form of carbon and sugar and are what feed the soil microbes and increase organic matter. They also protect against wind/water erosion, increase water infiltration, decrease compaction, increase aeration and scavenge nutrients as to avoid run-off in our water system. Talk about soil health!

The Johnston Boys

Another big reason I am falling in love with cover crops is I think they will decrease our herbicide usage on our farms and help us with weed control. Mother nature wants to cover every acre of bare dirt with something, so why not have it be a beneficial cover crop instead of a weed!! I feel that cover crops and biologicals are going to be the future of farming, and I hope to pass my knowledge onto my son, Cullen (pictured with his grandpa).

On our own family farm, we’re already discussing ways we can put cover crops and biological products from AgriEnergy Resources on more of our acres next year. We know it takes a little more work and planning, but the benefits far outweigh the work. As I drive by one of our green cover cropped fields, and then look at the neighbors bare field right next to it, my love for cover crops keeps growing. We need to be thinking about the health of our soil for not only now but for future generations as well.”

What about you? Do you use cover crops? We’d love to hear about it. And maybe even share your story in next week’s edition of Farm Favorite Friday.

Until next time, happy trails!

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Categories: Farm Favorite Friday | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Farm Favorite Friday: My growing love for cover crops

  1. cover crops are not only great for soil rejuvenation. If the right crops are planted they will help other benefactors like honey bees, In the late fall there is not much left for the bees, not just honey bees there are plenty of wild pollinators out there, we call them solitary bees. There is plenty out there.

    No matter what crop you plant, believe me it needs pollination.

    If you choose the right cover crop, you will not only help the bees but you will enforce and increase your pollination strengths for the next spring.

    Take care,

    Bob

    Like

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