Benefits of cover crops explained
PIPER CITY – Those attending a recent field day in Ford County, hosted by the Ford County Soil and Water Conservation District, learned how cover crops can reduce chemical inputs and help with weed management.
The Thorndyke Farm north of Piper City was the site for the field day, since it is in the Upper Vermillion Watershed – one of the state listed priority watersheds.
“It’s high in nitrate loads into the Vermillion River which then flows into the Illinois and down the Mississippi,” explains Dallas Glazik, administrative coordinator and resource conservationist in Ford County.
University of Illinois weed scientist Dr. Adam Davis was among the speakers at the meeting, discussing the reduction of weed management inputs. He said water hemp and Palmer amaranth are the two dominant weed problems to think about over the next decade.
“This is not something we can shrug off lightly. We have to prepare for it.”
Davis noted the need to “farm smarter” and said cover crops can help with this. Many fields in the southern United States utilize cover crops to help with out-of-control weed pressure. In fact, chopping crews had to be hired by farmers to deal with some severe cases of weed resistance.
“If you’re relying on a cover crop to smoke out your weeds, it’s not going to damage your crop,” Davis added.
Ford County is one of the watershed focus areas since it is a large ag production area with nutrients eroded easily.
Another cover crop field day is planned for this coming summer at the farm of Todd Lee. That event will examine how cover crops can bring beneficial insects and wildlife back into fields to help with pest control and increased yields through pollination.