|Whtie Dutch Clover sharing space with our melon crop.|
“ ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity—resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.
Specifically, Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density. Regenerative agriculture improves soil health, primarily through the practices that increase soil organic matter. This not only aids in increasing soil biota diversity and health, but increases biodiversity both above and below the soil surface, while increasing both water holding capacity and sequestering carbon at greater depths, thus drawing down climate-damaging levels of atmospheric CO2, and improving soil structure to reverse civilization –threatening human-caused soil loss.”
The following is an excerpt from a newsletter article Richard wrote in 2017 along with a few updates that he has added (in italics). While we utilize and plant cover crops throughout the season, we are currently in the height of cover crop planting time as we race to get crops off the fields and plant cover crops so they can put down roots and maximize their growth potential before winter sets in. This will continue to be a topic we keep at the forefront and it’s an important one for all of us to continue to learn about. It’s going to take both more farmers adopting these practices as well as consumers who support these practices to drive positive change in our current climate predicament.
Cover Crops 101: Keep It Covered!
By Richard deWilde
|A well-established cover crop planting in late fall|
|Side by side cover crops planted one week apart|
Many of our long term crew members understand our goals with regards to planting cover crops, but in the heat of the busy late summer and fall harvest season when we need all available hands on deck to harvest, it’s easy to put planting cover crops on the backburner to plant another day when harvest is done. However, our crew members understand planting cover crops is a priority and work diligently to make sure they get planted as soon as possible. As soon as we finish harvesting a crop and are done with it for the season, we prepare the ground and plant the cover crop even if it’s just two beds out of the entire field! Time is of the essence in the fall and our goal is to give the cover crop as many growing days as possible to get established before the temperatures drop and winter sets in. Cover crops may also be planted into a standing vegetable crop at the time of last cultivation. This allows us to have a soil-improving cover crop already growing in the shade of a cash crop, ready to take over as soon as the cash crop is done and any remaining portion of the plants are chopped! We use this method in crops such as asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb. We have also expanded this practice to include our fall broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. All of these already have an established cover of small clovers and grass. In these scenarios, the cover crop not only enhances the soil by increasing organic matter, but the cover crop also helps to compete with weeds and forms a mulch of sorts when the cover crop plant “winter kills.”
|Crimson clover cover crop|
|Richard evaluating biodiversity in this multi-species planting|
|Onions on raised beds with inter-seeded cover crops|
|Australian peas, with nitrogen capturing nodes on their roots.|
We hope you too can appreciate the benefits of cover crops in an organic farming system and will continue to learn along with us as we learn more about their role in our future. We also hope you will choose to support local producers who prioritize integrating cover crops into their agricultural systems. We’ll do our part, but we need the support of consumers to turn the tide and shape our food system into the future.
Closing Note: If you’re interested in learning more about Regenerative Agriculture and the work being done worldwide to promote these practices, visit www.regenerationinternational.org.