Clair Keene, a researcher at The Pennsylvania State University, and her colleagues wanted to find the perfect time to crimp-kill a cover crop: grown long enough to make biomass adequate to suppress weeds, but not far enough along to make seeds.
New Studies: Cover Crops Insure Soils against Extreme Weather; Crop Rotations Boost Beneficial Soil Microbes
Two recently released studies highlight the reasons behind the Cannon Horticulture Project’s extensive use of cover crops and crop rotations.
Can Soil Save Us? Making the Case for Cover Crops as Extreme Weather Risk Management, a study by the National Wildlife Foundation, reaffirms the long-established principle that cover crops boost soil quality. The report goes on to explain how better soil quality translates into increased resilience in the face of two opposite weather extremes that have both made recent appearances in Oklahoma: drought and flooding:
“For a fraction of what we now spend on extreme weather events, America could be investing in improving soil health by promoting sustainable agriculture practices such as cover crops. USDA reports that for each 1 percent increase in organic matter from improving soil health, our cropland could store the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls in 150 days. And we could reach 20 million acres of cover crops with a modest investment of just $740 million.”
Meanwhile, Michigan State University agronomist Lisa Tiemann published a peer-reviewed study of the effects of crop rotation on soil quality. Apart from other management practices, Tiemann and her co-authors reported that crop rotation favors beneficial soil microbes. Those microbes, in turn, increase organic matter content and aggregate formation in soils.