Luhman: Ways to Keep Your Soil Covered

In a past Connect Newsletter, I shared how important it is to keep your soil covered in hot times. Sunshine and heat can kill your soil biology fast, not to mention the erosion that can come when your soil is not protected. Today I will share a few simple ideas for how to keep your soil covered all season long.

Keeping your soil covered in pasture is as simple as moving your cows sooner and leaving more grass uneaten. The largest challenge is convincing yourself that by leaving 50-70% of your grass, that you are not in fact wasting it. Leaving that grass shades and protects your soil biology from sunshine, keeping it cool even in the hottest of days. It also minimizes the delay in root development and keeps plenty of leaves available to begin photosynthesis and plant regrowth. A study by Noble Research Institute found that when less than 30% of the plant is taken, root development is barely affected, and when over 50% is taken, nearly 100% of root development is delayed.

In cropping situations, keeping the soil covered all year long can be more difficult. But many farmers have found success with the utilization of cover crops or through relay cropping. The most popular and easy way to implement a cover crop is rye drilled immediately following the harvest of a fall grain crop. Depending on the fall, the rye may or may not get much growth during the fall. However, it is doing something for your soil, and come the following spring, you will have root and plant growth as soon as the ground thaws out and photosynthesis and carbon sequestration begins. There have also been successful experiments done interseeding covers into a standing grain crop so when the grain is harvested, there is already a green and growing plant to continue protecting and pumping carbon into the soil.

Whatever your situation, keep in mind the importance of keeping your soil protected. If you have questions or are interested in trying something new, don’t hesitate to reach out to myself, or any one of our experienced staff here at SFA.

Jared Luhman: