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3 Reasons Why You Should Plant a Cover Crop Blend

Cover crops can’t lose, right?

After all, they:

  • Shield soils from erosion.
  • Generate soil microbial growth. For example, mycorrhizal fungi create filaments on the edge of a crop plant’s roots that extends its water and nutrient uptake. Cover crops extend this activity past the growing season.
  • Enhance water infiltration. Cycle water and nutrients.

But…. There are a few catches, too.

  • Insects. The cover crop mat that protects soils from erosion also serves like a blanket for budding insect infestations. “We saw that in a 2013 debacle,” says Mark Bernard, a New Richland, Minnesota crop consultant. “Some farmers planted tillage radishes per instruction from the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). Lo and behold, we had got black cutworm in those fields the following spring.”
  • Phosphorus deficiencies. These can result from not planting a cover crop blend, says Bernard. “When people plant just tillage radishes as a cover crop rather than a blend with other cover crops, we have seen P (phosphorus) deficiencies when corn was planted on those fields. The tillage radish by itself didn’t support the mycorrhizae in the soil that allow P to be available.”
  • Plugged tile lines. A solid stand of tillage radishes can act as daggers by breaking tile lines or plugging them up. “You don’t realize how much we depend on drainage until tile gets plugged and breaks,” says Bernard.  
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