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Harvest more sunshine year round: plant cover crops for healthier soils


Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

Donna Rasmussen, Administrator

Cover crops are grasses, legumes, forbs, or other plants established to control soil erosion, build organic matter, capture nutrients and carbon, reduce compaction, break weed and disease cycles, and provide supplemental forage. Cover crops play a significant role in keeping soil healthy. One of the most interesting things about soil health is the role of organisms living in the soil that are essential for soil to perform its functions The organisms that live in the soil rely on growing roots to provide them with food. In return, they help the plants take up water and nutrients. Some of these organisms are fungi that produce glomalin, or the glue that holds soil together and gives it structure. When plant root growth stops, this process slows down or stops.

Planting a cover crop extends the growing season and keeps this process going. In effect, sunshine is being harvested to keep the soil healthy. Tillage also interrupts the production of glomalin, which explains why tilled soils have less structure than untilled soils leaving the soil doubly susceptible to erosion. Not only does tillage expose the bare soil to the energy of the raindrop but it has lost its structure and resiliency reducing its ability to resist erosion.

The most vulnerable time for soil erosion is after a crop is harvested until a canopy can form the following growing season. With most of the cropping systems in this region, this vulnerability is most pronounced in the fall until early summer, almost half the year, which is also the time when heavy rainfall is most likely. Look at a field harvested for corn silage, canning crops or soybeans and note the amount of bare soil that is visible. Having a living cover on the ground during this time can significantly reduce the risk of erosion plus provide the benefits mentioned above.

Winter rye has been a popular choice for a cover crop because of its ability to grow even under very cool conditions. It germinates and grows quickly with adequate moisture and good soil contact. The growth above ground may not look like much in the fall because most of the energy of the plant is going into producing roots. However, in the spring, it is easy to spot those fields with winter rye because they are a brilliant green when everything else is still brown. Winter rye seeded in the fall can be grazed the following spring which allows more time for forage in permanent p .....
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It’s easy to be a Citizen Stream Monitoring volunteer

Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

Have you ever wanted to play a role in understanding the condition of our local streams? The Minnesota Citizen Stream Monitoring Program (CSMP) is ideal for someone who has an extra 15-30 minutes each week to monitor a local stream between the mont ..... 
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2012 North American Manure Expo and Dane County Digester Tour

Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

Dawn Bernau and Katie Richards, Nutrient Management Specialists – SE MN Area 7 On August 21st the SE MN Nutrient Management Specialists Dawn Bernau and Katie Richards toured the Dane County Community Anaerobic Digester as part of the 2012 North ..... 
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Last sign-up for MRBI Funding

Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

Ryan Thesing, Conservation Planning Specialist With the last year of Mississippi River Basin Initiative funding available to landowners and producers, now is the time to take advantage of high priority funding for conservation practices. Rush-Pine ..... 
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Community Partners can make a difference: Stormwater Mini-Grant program 2013

Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

Fillmore County SWCD has received $45,000 in Clean Water Funds to be offered as mini-grants for projects that reduce or treat stormwater runoff to local streams. Is your community or nonprofit organization interested in planting a raingarden? Wo ..... 
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Pasture rental and lease agreements

Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

Jim Paulson, University of Minnesota Pasture rental and lease arrangements offer livestock producers the opportunity to affordably start or expand their operations and limit financial risk. With the high price of grains and the growing interest in ..... 
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Want to improve your pastures? Treat them like a crop.

Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

Grazing Specialists John Zinn, NRCS and Dean Thomas, SWCD Were you dissatisfied with the production of some of your pastures last year, even though you were rotating them and not overgrazing? It could be that your soil is deficient in nutrients. P ..... 
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Revision of the State’s Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan

Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

What is the “Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan”? The original NFMP was developed by the Nitrogen Fertilizer Task Force as directed by the 1989 Comprehensive Groundwater Protection Act. The primary goal of the Plan is to prevent degradation ..... 
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Fertilizing grass pastures

By Jerrold Tesmer

Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

Are you looking for ways to get more out of your pasture? Have you ever soil tested your pasture? Do you treat your pasture like a valuable crop? As with other crops, adequate fertilizer is needed for optimal economic production. This could mea ..... 
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