Over 50 people attended the USDA sponsored cover crop forum in Owensville on Feb. 18 to view the live broadcast of the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health and to participate in local discussions on soil health.
Mr. Brad Barber and Mr. Ernie Hatfield were two local farmers who presented their experiences using cover crops to improve soil quality and crop yields.
Global and national issues pertaining to human population growth, resource scarcity, extreme weather events and environmental pressures, prompted the national conference and local forums.
Approximately 2 million acres of cover crops were planted across the U.S. in 2012.
The practice is becoming increasingly popular and many local farmers are sharing their experiences to help others.
“I advise people just starting out to consider using cereal rye as a cover crop because it’s hardy and easy to plant,” Barber said. Cover crops are one best management practice promoted by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help farmers maintain and improve soil quality on their farms between the growing seasons. “The cereal rye does the work to maintain nutrients on my fields and build up the soil organic matter before I plant a cash crop. I’m continually amazed by the soil quality in my cover crop fields.”
Cover crops also benefit the environment by reducing erosion and chemical runoff into nearby streams and lakes. Mr. Ernie Hatfield, another local farmer and cover crop supporter, says, “We’re passionate about cover crops – they’re good for the environment and also help our bottom line.”
Both farmers suggest that other producers need to be adaptable with their approach.
Hatfield modified a piece of equipment and mounted grain bins to his combine harvester, which allows him to spread cover crop seed while harvesting crops during the fall.
“You have to think outside the box, keep an open mind and have some fun,” Hatfield said.
Those interested in more about cover crops and the financial and technical assistance provided by NRCS should contact Clermont County’s District Conservation at: (513) 732-2181 Ext. 3.