CONTINUOUS COVER. In spring 2021, Chris Pollack examines the soil below the overwintered ryegrass and clover. Pollack will take two forage cuttings from this field in 2021 and let it overwinter again.
Chris Pollack is a Wisconsin dairy farmer with the Upper Fox-Wolf Demonstration Farm Network who, among other conservation practices, is experimenting with alternative forages. This field was planted in Spring 2020 to sorghum-sudangrass, Italian ryegrass, and clover. Chris cut this field twice then left it alone going into winter.
Now in spring 2021, this field is growing green. The clover and ryegrass both over-wintered, serving the dual purpose of a #covercrop as well as next year's forage. Chris no-till drilled balansa clover into this field on April 3rd. This type of clover has a high capacity to "fix" or tie up nitrogen and improve water infiltration (meaning less runoff) due to its deep tap root system. He'll take forage from this field through 2021 and this field will again go into the winter undisturbed, meaning living plants above protecting the surface and living roots below providing ample benefit to the soil and anchoring the soil in place. This is an example of 2+ years of continuous, living cover and no soil disturbance. Another benefit is the ability to apply manure mid-season to growing plants rather than applying it during the more traditional, tighter windows in spring or fall.
It's exciting to see experimentation with alternative forages such as this that work for the farm and are beneficial to the community. Thanks to Chris and the many other farmers out there focusing on farmer-led solutions to restoring soil health and improving water quality, whether through established networks or independently.