Photo: Chiot's Run (Flickr)
This year’s droughts have decreased yields in Indiana farms but may offer opportunities to improve soil health for next year through the use of what are known as cover crops.
Cover crops are used for soil quality management because they hold water, fertilizers and nitrogen – assets Indiana Department of Agriculture Program Manager Jordan Seger says cash crops can use later.
“Because cover crops have the opportunity to be able to hold on to nutrients, fertilizers, that may have not all been utilized this year because of lower yields and help carry some of those fertilizers and nutrients over to next year,” he says. “So next year’s crops can actually use that.”
Curtis McBride owns a farm in Lawrence County. He began growing cover crops about 10 years ago, and he says he has seen larger yields in the last three years. McBride also says he thinks fields where he planted cover crops benefited this year.
“I think where we planted cover crops which are better crops this year,” he says. “On my farm anywhere we had cover crops, we had a better farm yield with, won’t have a barren, I am sure.”
Growing cover crops costs Joe Peden, a farmer in Monroe County, about $10 or $15 more per acre each year. But farmers say that’s money they do not have to spend on fertilizer in future years. Some common cover crops include oats, clover and rye grasses.