Ok, so the use of this cliche, “the best defense is a good offense” won’t stand up in today’s rough and tumble world of sports. Imagine the Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban or Clemson’s Dabo Swinney trying that strategy in the BCS Championship Bowl!
But, in agriculture, a good defense kind of creates its own offense. Take cover crops, for example, and annual ryegrass specifically.
- Planting ryegrass in the fall gives the rich topsoil a chance to relax…no worries of some offensive wind and rushing water eroding it away.
- No worries about compacted soil continuing to starve corn roots opportunity to access deeper nutrient-rich soil beneath the compacted layer.
- The residue left over when the cover crop is eliminated in the spring (particularly true with annual ryegrass) is food both for the active soil biology, but also feeds the corn next year, because it soaks up excess nitrogen in the soil and gives it back when corn needs it most, next June.
- The decaying root structure of annual ryegrass also plays an important role in building organic matter in the soil. It feeds the microbes and insects, plus it leaves channels where corn roots can grow deeper the following year
- AnnuaL ryegrass roots also discourage the overpopulation of soybean cyst nematodes which damage that crop
As the country, and the world continue to grapple with the impact of violent weather, cover crops provide some defense from soil degradation, and contribute to storing more carbon dioxide in the soil instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.
The best of all worlds, cover crops increase farm productivity and profits. And there’ll be no argument about creating a profit while you’re also contributing to the health of our soil, air and water resources.