By Tracy Turner
Growers who plant cover crops instead of tilling their soil will save money upfront and have healthier soils and better yields long-term, says a soil health and cover crops expert with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
Farmers who add cover crops to their fields - such as oilseed radish, cereal rye, Austrian winter pea and crimson clover, among others - can also expect to reduce soil erosion, cut down on nutrient losses, cut input costs and improve water quality, said Jim Hoorman, an Ohio State University Extension educator and an assistant professor studying cover crops, soil health and water quality issues. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.
Hoorman will discuss “Economics of Planting Cover Crops” during a Nov. 20 webinar from 1 to 2 p.m. The webinar is offered in conjunction with the Midwest Cover Crops Council and Michigan State University Extension. The Cover Crops Council includes researchers and educators from several universities, including Ohio State, Hoorman said.
The webinar will include information on getting started planting cover crops and will help those who want to expand their knowledge on the benefits of cover crops, he said.
“The cost of adding cover crops is about $25 to $30 per acre, which is about more or less about the cost of multiple tillage rotations,” Hoorman said. “The advantage of cover crops and no-till working together in a crop rotation is that it helps feed soil microbes, which more efficiently utilize and retain soil nutrients.
“Soil microbes are like soluble bags of fertilizer, so keeping the soil microbes healthy improves plant production. Tillage operations, on the other hand, can cause soil compaction as well as cause soils to become harder and denser. Tillage also causes you to lose carbon from the soil, which is what stores soil nutrients. ”
Adding cover crops to field crop production can also benefit the environment, increase water quality and lower production costs, Hoorman said.
“Cover crop roots improve water infiltration and reduce nutrient and water runoff,” he said. “Growers who plant cover crops and vegetative systems in agriculture will also find that it can tie up phosphorus in a more stable organic-phosphorus form that may remain in the soil longer, which may increase phosphorus use efficiency.”
The registration cost for the webinar is $10. For more information, contact Hoorman at 419-523-6294 or email@example.com. Registration for the webinar can be found at