Protect your soil this fall and winter. Right now, is a great opportunity for soil conservation. Fall is fast approaching, and the weather will be changing to cooler temperatures and you guessed it, Rain! What can you do to help protect your soils for this upcoming change? There are numerous practices that can protect soil and even help build it. If your goal is to save soil, we recommend field borders, filter strips, conservation cover, and grass waterways to name a few. The best defense in saving soil is having living roots. These roots act as soil anchors but can provide much more. If you want to build soil, plants do that too. They generate biomass that can be integrated back in as organic matter and capture energy from the atmosphere. This energy gets pumped back into the soil feeding microbes. This vast microbial community is benefitting from this nutrient cycling. If we can think of our soils as a “cash” crop during the winter, we need to take care of them as such.
Healthy soils have healthy microbial activity, these soil microbes need something to eat and breakdown to make that happen. A newly planted cover crop can provide that food. They can also capture unused nutrients before leaching washes them away storing them for next season conserving nutrients that have already been applied. Another great benefit to cover cropping is providing diversity in crop rotation to break up the monoculture from the previous crops. This change provides different rooting structures in size and depth breaking up compaction adding space. These plants can also increase organic matter through biomass. During the winter it is important to capture as much solar energy as possible and pump carbon back into the soil. When choosing a blend, it is important to identify what you are trying to do and choose the right species to help. These are generally mixes of grains, brassicas, and legumes which all work differently and require different management. You want something working during the winter that is also manageable in the spring. No matter what mix you choose one thing is certain covered soil is better than bare soil. We want to keep those soils protected and keep them healthy.