Healthy soil and clean water are high priorities in Scott County, and farmers are able to improve both by planting cover crops. Starting in June, they can rent the right equipment and receive incentives to do it!
The Scott Watershed Management Organization (WMO), in partnership with the Scott soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), recently purchased a new, 6-row cover crop interseeder. Mounted on a 3-point hitch, the interseeder will seed cover crops into existing corn rows, thus providing soil health and erosion control benefits. The interseeder is being custom built and is scheduled to arrive in early June.
The interseeder, along with no-till drills and seeders, can be rented by Scott County residents through the Scott SWCD office. The equipment, housed at the Scott County Fairgrounds, is delivered to and picked up from the planting site. The rental fee for all equipment is currently $8 per acre, plus a refundable deposit of $50.
A “cover” crop is a crop planted to manage soil erosion, fertility and quality, along with water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife.
“Cover crops actually save soil and rebuild soil health and fertility,” explained Todd Kavitz, Engineering Technician with the SWCD in Jordan. “There is a place for a cover crop in every crop rotation. In fact, soil benefits accumulate over time when the cover crops capture carbon, which in turn, increases soil organic matter. Added soil organic matter of just 1 percent in soils can store an additional 1 inch of rainfall, equating to roughly 20,000 gallons of water per acre.”
Generally, cover crops are planted between the rows in corn fields. Examples of successful cover crops include tillage radishes, turnips, rape seed, cereal rye and clovers, mainly because of their long tap roots that grow deep into the soil, break up compaction and hold it in place. Once the cover crop starts deteriorating, it “feeds” the soil by leaving organic matter where the plant was, aerating the soil at the same time.
Benefits are many, including:
Locally, Scott WMO and SWCD are offering cost-share assistance for planting cover crops -- $30/acre! A call to the Scott SWCD office can get the process started. Here in Scott County, a handful of individual producers are already planting cover crops. Aerial seeding by airplane or helicopter, or with a high-clearance fertilizer sprayer, have been the traditional methods used. With the interseeder, the seed is actually drilled into the soil, providing much better seed-to-soil contact resulting in much higher seed germination.
“Soil health is a No. 1 priority for sustainable agriculture,” Todd continued. “Cover crops are not a new concept. They were incorporated into farm practices in the past and have a place and benefit in every operation going forward. Millions of tons of soil are lost every year due to wind and water erosion on bare soil. Cover crops make a difference!”
The Scott WMO/SWCD soil health initiative will include education through workshops, field tours, interseeded demonstration plots on local farms and even a Soil Health/Cover Crop Team to exchange ideas, record data and review results moving forward.
Funding for the interseeder was made possible through a grant from the Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
Watch for more details and program launch events later this month. For questions or additional information, please call Todd Kavitz, (952) 492-5425.