Soil School: Cover crops improve soil health and manage wildlife

When Bloomfield, Ont. farmer Tyler Lester started planting cover crops, the goal was to help keep livestock out of pea crops to address food safety concerns raised by vegetable crop customers.

With a healthy deer and wild turkey population that too often ventured into the crops, Lester and his family hatched a strategy to plant cover crops and forage mixes in marginals areas, including field corners and edges, to create an attractive feed for wildlife and keep them out of the field.

The strategy has worked better than anyone expected. Not only are fewer wildlife wandering into vegetable crops, but Lester has also witnessed the ability of cover crops to help improve soil health. In areas where seed mixes that include oats, winter wheat, cereal rye, radishes, and brassicas have been planted, Lester has noticed significant improvements in soil tilth and water infiltration capability.

In this episode of RealAgriculture Soil School, Lester shares how cover crops have also helped manage weed escapes and reduce weed pressure. He believes cover crops will also play a key role in managing glyphosate-resistant Canada fleabane, which continues to expand its footprint across Ontario.

In 2019 Lester, a member of the Ontario Soil Network, planted 160 acres to cover crops, and he intends to plant his entire 350-acre farm to cover crops in five years.

Click here for more Soil School episodes.

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