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Research trial highlights the benefits of cover crops for soil health

“We have to do anything we can to minimize the time soil is left bare without anything growing,” says Dr. Judith Nyiraneza, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) based in Prince Edward Island.

Emily Leeson of Farm Focus writes that Nyiraneza and Oyster Cove Farms in Prince Edward Island recently completed a two-year study to test the performance of cover crops planted following the potato harvest. Nyiraneza said that a variety of cover crop options can help producers better manage soil health and reduce the environmental impacts of soil erosion.

When soil erodes, the valuable topsoil is lost. As it is blown away by winds or washed away by rainfall, the quality of the soil decreases – ultimately resulting in lower yields and potentially higher costs for producers trying to remedy their soil’s decreasing productivity. Erosion also increases the potential for groundwater pollution as agricultural chemicals from the soil are swept into water sources. 

The two-year study tested the performance of winter rye, winter wheat, and spring barley planted after the potato harvest. All three cover crops showed promise. “They decreased the risk of soil erosion and reduced the amount of carbon and nitrogen that would be lost in soil compared with no winter cover control,” said Nyiraneza.

Instead of looking exclusively at seeding winter cover crops after the potato harvest, the researchers are also investigating the potential of seeding the field ahead of the harvest. 

Source: Farm Focus. Read the full report here
Photo: A splash pan used to measure soil movement caused by raindrops and the soil’s vulnerability to erosion

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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