Unpacking the promise of cover crops


When it comes to improving soil health and carbon sequestration, cover crops have been heralded as a key practice. But research to prove out the impact is coming to a rather underwhelming conclusion on cover crops’ ability to actual build organic matter.

Gabriel Popkin has published a report on the Food & Environment Reporting Network that lists cover crops as offering a very small benefit to soil organic matter over time. What’s more, the practice could, in some cases, have a negative impact on yields.

Still, Popkin himself says that planting cover crops is better than doing nothing, but that seems at odds with the research findings, too.

To unpack the how and the why of this, Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson, RealAgriculture’s resident agronomist, joins RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney to discuss where cover crops seem to offer some benefit but why the promise of cover crops as a fix for all has not proven out in the science.

Much of the benefit seems to be focused on high-moisture, longer season areas, where soil may be left bare for months at a time. Still, Johnson adds that a diverse crop rotation and sound agronomy builds the best crop — and that contributes more, overall, to soil health as any cover crop.

Check out the full conversation between Johnson and Haney, below:



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