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Integrated Cover Crop Management


What are Cover Crops? 

In farming, cover crops are cultivated to provide soil coverage rather than primarily for harvesting purposes. These crops play an essential role in farming. 

Their main job is to make the soil better. They are planted in fields that would otherwise be empty, like during breaks between growing seasons. 

They aim to shield the soil from erosion (when it gets carried away by wind or water) and prevent the loss of essential nutrients. 

By doing this, these crops help to keep the soil healthy and ready for future crops to grow.

Calling all farmers!

With the integration of cover crop seeding and seedbed preparation in a single operation, the Kelly Tillage System significantly reduces the number of passes required. This efficient method saves time, cost and improves productivity.

The Kelly Model 4614 and the Kelly Seeder are designed to work together smoothly. They have been built to connect and work without any issues. 

Benefits Of Cover Crops 

Prevents Soil Erosion / Improves Seed-to-soil contact 

Cover crops play a vital role in improving seed-to-soil contact. When cover crops are grown, they make a thick layer of plants on top of the soil, kind of like a natural blanket. 

This blanket protects the soil from the force of rain. Instead of raindrops hitting the soil directly and possibly washing it away, the cover crop catches the raindrops. 

This helps to prevent erosion and keeps the seeds in place. 

It’s like a shield that helps the seeds connect well with the soil, which is important for them to grow properly.

Retains Nitrate

When farmers plant cover crops, these plants soak up extra nitrogen from the soil and keep it stored in their aboveground parts like leaves and stems. 

This is helpful because it stops nitrogen from leaking or flowing away into the environment.

After some time, when the cover crops are either taken out or broken down naturally, the nitrogen they stored is given back to the soil. 

This means that the nitrogen becomes accessible for the next main crop, which is the one farmers want to grow and sell to make money. 

So instead of being wasted in the environment, the nitrogen is reused and helps the next crop grow.

Tightening The Nutrient Loop 

Cover crops help recycle nutrients in farming. When plants grow, they need nutrients from the soil to survive and grow. 

Sometimes, these nutrients can move down through the soil and end up in the water like groundwater, streams, or ponds nearby. This can cause water pollution and harm the local environment.

These crops stop this from happening. They soak up and hold onto these extra nutrients, so they don’t leak out of the soil and pollute the water. 

This not only protects the water but also improves the soil by keeping nutrients within the farming system.

Microorganisms: Fueling Nutrient Access in Soil

Cover crops help create a good environment for helpful tiny living things in the soil, like bacteria and fungi. These little creatures do important work in the soil by moving around nutrients and minerals, which plants need to grow. 

They break down old plant material, releasing the nutrients stored in it so that plants can use them more easily.

Easing Soil Compression With Cover Crops

Cover crops help make the soil less hard and compact. When the soil is compacted, it becomes dense and tightly packed, making it difficult for plant roots to grow and access nutrients. 

The roots of cover crops spread out and penetrate the soil, creating channels and spaces. These channels allow air and water to move more freely in the soil, making it looser and reducing compaction. 

As a result, the soil becomes more welcoming to plant roots, enabling them to grow better and reach the nutrients they need to thrive.

Glue Soil With Cover Crop 

Planting cover crops adds up organic matter into the soil that feeds soil microorganisms. These microorganisms break down the cover crop residue and create polysaccharides as a result.

Polysaccharides: They are special types of carbohydrates found in the soil, and they have a more complex structure compared to simpler sugars.

The polysaccharides produced by microorganisms act like natural glue, sticking soil particles together. 

This creates clusters of soil called crumbs. These soil clusters have spaces in between them that let water and air flow easily. 

They also help the soil hold onto nutrients and provide a good environment for plant roots to grow.

Managing Cover Crops Profitably

Opt for Superior Seeds

When it comes to the management of cover crops, it’s really important to use good seeds. Let’s say you want to grow a cover crop to protect your soil, prevent weeds, and make it healthier.

 If you use low-quality seeds, they might not sprout and grow properly. This means that if they take longer to grow, weeds could have a chance to grow and take over your field. 

Also, if the seeds aren’t good, the cover crop might not grow evenly. Some areas might have plants while others won’t. 

This goes against the purpose of cover cropping because it won’t protect the soil uniformly and won’t stop weeds effectively.

Prepare Weed-Free Clean Seedbed 

Before planting cover crops, it’s crucial to deal with the problem of weeds. This means getting rid of any existing weeds and stopping new weed seeds from sprouting just below the surface of the soil. 

It’s also important to disturb the parts of the weeds that grow below the ground, like their roots and stems. 

By doing this, you can prevent perennial weeds from regrowing and causing trouble for your cover crops. The final step is to perform shallow tillage shortly before planting the cover crops, preferably just a few minutes or hours before. 

This ensures that the cover crops have a better chance of growing well because they won’t have to compete with weeds.

Nurture Your Cover Crop

In cover crop management, it’s important to care for the soil before planting the cover crop. If there is a hard layer in the soil called a subsurface hardpan, it can affect the growth of the cover crop. To solve this problem, it’s recommended to break the hardpan before planting the cover crop. 

A subsurface hardpan is like a compacted layer of soil that makes it difficult for water, air, and roots to move through. 

It can stop the cover crop’s roots from growing deep and reaching the nutrients and water they need. This can limit how well the cover crop grows and how productive it is.

If the soil is dry, it’s a good idea to water a newly-planted cover crop. Water helps the seeds soak up moisture and start growing. It also helps the cover crop develop strong roots and healthy leaves.

If the soil’s pH is too low (acidic) or too high (alkaline), it’s important to make adjustments before planting cover crops. If the pH is low (5.5 or lower), you can apply lime to raise it. If the pH is high (8.0 or higher), you can use acidifying amendments to lower it.

Why They Truly Matter!

In organic farming, the use of synthetic inputs like artificial fertilisers and chemical herbicides is strictly prohibited. Synthetic fertilisers pose a potential threat to farms. Over-reliance on them can lead to soil degradation. 

Instead, organic farmers adopt alternative methods to maintain the health and fertility of their soil. One way they do this is by planting cover crops.

When cover crops are planted and later mixed into the soil, they break down and release the nutrients they absorbed. 

This breakdown process creates natural matter that enriches the soil and makes it better for growing crops. 

As the cover crops decompose, they release nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which other plants can use to grow. 

This natural recycling of nutrients through cover crops keeps the soil healthy, so farmers don’t have to use as many artificial fertilizers.

It’s a way of farming that takes care of the soil and helps crops grow well without relying too much on chemicals.

Final Thoughts

Farmers just wrapping up while serving you the cutting-edge solution in the form of Kelly Discs!

By focusing on the surface layer of topsoil, Kelly Disc Chains preserve soil structure and prevent moisture loss. 

The mulched cover crop stays on the soil surface, serving as a protective shield. Say goodbye to unnecessary soil disturbance and hello to a more sustainable farming approach!

To sum up, integrated cover crop management is a great way for farmers to take care of their farms. When farmers use cover crops wisely, they can make the soil healthier, keep more water in the ground, prevent soil erosion, and control the growth of unwanted plants.

 Cover crops also help with the recycling of nutrients, keeping them in the soil instead of washing them away. 

Overall, integrated cover crop management is a beneficial practice that helps farmers and protects the environment.