Thanks to farmer, friend, and blog reader Vic for sending us a link to this Mother Jones story on cover crops. Here’s just a taste of the great info you’ll find:
The [2012 Iowa State University] study looked at fields under three kinds of rotations over nine years: the common two-year corn-soy rotation, a three-year rotation that adds oats with a nitrogen-fixing cover crop, and a four-year rotation that adds hay (alfalfa) to the mix. The result: The more diverse systems reduced the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizer—an energy-intensive, water-polluting substance—by a stunning 86 percent, while maintaining yields.
Let me get this straight. According to the study, cover crops are directly responsible for 86% less fertilizer, 200x less freshwater toxicity, and 48-51% less energy usage per acre per year? Kindly point me to the nearest vat of nitrogen-fixing legume seed. Peanut butter, anyone?
Legumes are great, but this may be the best cover ever.