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Take Cover!

An Ohio study shows the benefits of using cover crops in your no-till operation.

While most no-tillers know that cover crops can protect soil from wind and water erosion, a study conducted by the Conservation Action (CAP) Project at Napoleon, Ohio, points out even more potential benefits.

According to CAP coordinator Bill Rohrs, a recent 2-year nitrate recovery project shows farmers can use rye, wheat and oats as cover crops with no-till to gain a variety of benefits. Yield increases ranged from a low of 20 bushels of corn per acre to an increase of 30 bushels per acre. Soybean yield increases ranged from 0 to 6 bushels per acre. Among the benefits of using grass cover crops are:

  1. The soil is protected from heavy spring rains, the wind and sun, making no-till planting easier.
  2. Weed pressure is reduced so chemical treatment can be better managed, reducing carryover effect.
  3. Wind driven soils are held in place eliminating damage to young growing plants.
  4. Root mass and organic matter content of the soil is increased.
  5. Less soil moisture is evaporated so more moisture is available to the plant during hot summer growing days.
  6. Cover crops allow the full yield potential of the no-till crop genetics to be realized.
  7. Field travel is made easier, with less soil compaction resulting from traffic with planting and harvesting equipment.

Grass Cover Crops

This demonstration project was a continuation of a 1994 to 1996 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, an effort to simultaneously measure and apply nutrients.

It was designed to encourage farmers to use cover crops in their farming…

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