Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cover Crop Vaccine

"Vaccinate your soil with a cover crop" is this new catchy ad from NRCS.  Is that misleading?  By planting a cover crop we really don't add anything but a seed that will give off root exudation as it sprouts and grows.  By inoculating or vaccinating your soil with these new gases, we do cause many beneficial organisms to repopulate or expand their population.  The result is a healthier place for our intended crop to grow.

I heard a fellow say no wonder SabrEx works so well, everyone uses glyphosate and glyphosate kills beneficial trichaderma fungi.  There are other ways to promote beneficial trichaderma and other bacteria and fungi.

"At the end of the growing season you may be ready to rest, but your soil is not. One final effort can make a big difference: cover cropping. Even small gardens will benefit from the use of cover crops, or "green manures". Tilling, weeding, harvesting and foot traffic of most home gardens tends to destroy soil structure. Planting cover crops is an easy way to revitalize the soil, and help soil tilth and subsequent plant growth. Cover crops are planted in vacant space and worked into the soil after they grow instead of being eaten. They provide a number of advantages to the otherwise wasteful use of space during your garden's off-season.

Cover crops help to retain the soil, lessen erosion, and decrease the impact of precipitation on the garden by slowing the runoff of water. They also reduce mineral leaching and compaction, and suppress perennial and winter annual weed growth. The top growth adds organic matter when it is tilled into the garden soil. The cover crop's root system also provides organic matter and opens passageways that help improve air and water movement in the soil.

Success in the growth of cover crops requires proper selection of the kind of cover crop, correct timing of seeding, and good management techniques. There are many traditional cover crops to select from, including annual ryegrass, winter rye, winter wheat, oats, white clover, sweet clover, hairy vetch and buckwheat. Grasses are easier to grow than legumes such as clover because they germinate more quickly and do not require inoculation. Small seeded crops are more difficult to establish than large seeded types such as oats and buckwheat. In poorly drained areas, grasses may be easier to get started. Winter rye and ryegrass grow in a very dense habit and are much more effective at shading out weeds than oats or small seeded legumes. Availability of seed and cost are other important considerations.

It's time to start vaccinating your soil if you haven't already!

Ed Winkle

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