One thing I love about my "job" is I get to ponder, and be involved with, such a wide variety of subject matters. And, the scope of topics I present in my blogs is definitely the evidence of that.
Today, I felt compelled to share an article about the role cover crops can play in building soil fertility. I know, this is one I write about A LOT. That is because it is such an interesting topic, but also one that does not receive nearly as much attention as it deserves. It is one of those things that when it is being talked about, we can really be impressed by just how diverse an environment soil is, but that we just so easily "forget" as soon as the conversation is over. That is another reason I like to bring it up often - keep it forefront in our minds because soil health is just plain THAT IMPORTANT. And so, for today, I give you the article "Building Soil Fertility and Tilth with Cover Crops" by Marianne Sarrantonio.
BUILDING SOIL FERTILITY AND TILTH WITH COVER CROPS
by Marianne Sarrantonio
Soil is an incredibly complex substance. It has physical and chemical properties that allow it to sustain living organisms--not just plant roots and earthworms, but hundreds of thousands of different insects, wormlike creatures and microorganisms. When these organisms are in balance, your soil cycles nutrients efficiently, stores water and drains the excess, and maintains an environment in which plants can thrive.
To recognize that a soil can be healthy, one has only to think of the soil as a living entity. It breathes, it transports and transforms nutrients, it interacts with its environment, and it can even purify itself and grow over time. If you view soil as a dynamic part of your farming system, unsustainable crop management practices amount to soil neglect. That neglect could worsen as the soil sickens and loses its life functions one by one.
Regardless of how healthy or alive your soil is right now, cover crops can play a vital role in ensuring that your soil provides a strong foundation for your farming system. While the most common reasons for including cover crops in a farming system may relate to the immediate short-term need, the continued practice of cover cropping becomes an investment in building healthy soil over the long term.
Cover crops improve soil in a number of ways. Protection against soil loss from erosion is perhaps the most obvious soil benefit of cover crops, but providing organic matter is a more long-term and equally important goal. Cover crops contribute indirectly to overall soil health by catching nutrients before they can leach out of the soil profile or, in the case of legumes, by adding nitrogen to the soil. Their roots can even help unlock some nutrients, converting them to more available forms. Cover crops provide habitat or a food source for some important soil organisms, break up compacted layers in the soil and help dry out wet soils.
I hope you have enjoyed yet another foray into the world beneath your feet that is SOIL.
Until next time, peace!