In this week’s episode, we talk with Richard Moyer in Russell County Virginia about some of the cover crops he uses and their benefits. In our previous blog and video, we talked about the importance of soil organic matter and mentioned that a great way to increase your soil organic matter is through cover cropping.
“If this were bare soil and I spread chicken litter on here, a lot of the nutrients would’ve been lost…”Richard Moyer
Whether you’re organic or conventional, it’s strongly recommended that you utilize cover crops, since there’re numerous benefits. The first of which is, cover crops should be a part of your crop rotation cycle. As an organic grower, you will need to rotate your crops, using a different field each year. If you’re working with limited space, cover crops can help speed up your rotation schedule.
Richard explains some of the other benefits of using cover crops, such as helping with weed management, preventing erosion in a bare field, fixing nitrogen and attracting those early pollinators. These are just some of the benefits of having cover crops, for others that weren’t mentioned, check out this list.
Depending on the season and your specific needs, this article will help you decide what cover crops are best for your operation. In the video, we hear that Clovers, Winter Rye, Buckwheat, Oats, Hairy Vetch, and Barley have all worked great for him. It’s also recommended that you plant companion cover crops to increase their effectiveness. For example, Legumes and Kinds of wheat go well together. Lastly, don’t forget to till the cover crop into your soil before it starts to seed. For even more information on cover crops, check out this article from VABF.
Another benefit of cover crops is that it will reduce your time on the tractor when you’re plowing and discing your soil.
In the corresponding video, we saw that Richard had goats in a field where he was growing clover. As part of the organic growers’ group, you will need to refer to documents 3.27, 4.19 and 6.01 if you have domesticated animals in your operation. Richard isn’t part of the growers’ group but has been growing organically for many years now and was a wealth of knowledge. As part of the growers’ group, you will need to keep your livestock or as Richard called them, partners in farming, a safe distance away from crop production areas. Fields will need to be monitored weekly to ensure that no unauthorized entry of any domesticated animals has occurred.
In our previous blog, we also talked about the use of manures and compost. If you do have domesticated animals on your farm and are part of the organic growers’ group, make sure that your manure piles are properly contained to prevent any overflowing, leaking or runoff.