Green Manure and Cover Crops
How do you improve soil quality while keeping costs down and benefiting the environment and wildlife? Simple – plant a crop and till it under.
One of the reasons we use the soil conservation tactics we do is to maintain the amount of organic material in the soil. Dirt rich in organic material requires less fertilizer, which in turn requires less financial output to farm. However, sometimes a field needs a little help in getting important nutrients back into the soil. One option would be to use conventional fertilizer. While it is effective, conventional fertilizer is expensive and can make a field unable to be certified as organic for three years or more. Another option is to plant a cover crop and then till it into the soil as green manure.
As an organic fertilizer, green manure has many benefits. A field left fallow runs the risk of having precious top soil lost to wind erosion and simply adding organic fertilizer doesn’t help with increasing the water retention of the soil. With green manure, top soil is much less susceptible to the ravages of the wind and the organic material that’s plowed into the earth helps the soil retain water longer. By tilling a crop such as peas into the ground, nitrogen and other important nutrients are added back into the soil. Not only is the soil richer in nutrients, the roots of crop plants are able to penetrate the ground better.
While green manure is great for the soil, it’s also great for the environment. Obviously, green manure cuts down on the use of fertilizer, but the cover crops also help suppress weeds as well as the insects and diseases that can accompany them. Predatory insects can also thrive in the cover crop, thus working as a natural pest manager. As a result, less insecticides and herbicides are used to control harmful pests. The cover crop also creates habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
With all of the benefits that come from green manure, it’s easy to see why conventional and organic farms alike are turning to this method to improve soil quality. The benefits extend beyond the dirt and fit perfectly into Gold Dust and Walker Brothers’ sustainable farming plan.