ABOVE PHOTO: PICK PHACELIA. Jill Clapperton says if you have a sandy farm with poor soil aggregation, choose phacelia for its fine root system.
Cover crops have been touted for feeding soil biological life, halting erosion and promoting an overall healthy, sustainable no-till system. But in some situations, with the right species, cover crops can help resolve additional challenges no-tillers are looking to fix.
At the 23rd National No-Tillage Conference in Cincinnati last January, world-renowned soil scientist and Rhizoterra co-founder Jill Clapperton discussed which cover crop species, as well as other management options, can correct specific issues no-tillers may face.
Clapperton says buckwheat has really acidic root exudates, so it liberates some of the phosphorus and calcium out of the soil. It also attracts bees, making it a good crop for pollinators and beneficial insects.
“Let’s say you just took over a farm with really sandy soil and you need to reclaim it,” says Clapperton. “Phacelia is the first thing you’re going to pick. The fine root system will just aggregate that beautifully.”
She adds that in this case you’ll want a mix consisting of cereals, oilseeds (like sunflower) and that is heavy on legumes.
No-tillers who have a problem with root knot nematodes will want to stay away from clovers because they can be hosts…