EXIT 4 I-95s in New Jersey, To Penn’s Landing, PA
Along the Interstate you see a lot of farms and fields. If not for Roadspoke and the radio, sometimes you might even get bored looking at all the fields. Back in the day when kids would get mean with one another, they might say something like, “You are dumb as dirt!” Well guess what Road Trippers, the dirt in many farmers’ fields is no longer dumb. You might even call it smart soil.
Nowadays, science is getting back to nature and that means getting away from using synthetic fertilizers. Turns out a lot of fertilizers create side effects that are very harmful to the rivers, streams and even the ground itself. Too much fertilizer is poison and harms plants, animals and humans and the ability of the field to grow healthy crops. So what’s a farmer to do?
According to the Walton Family Foundation, the answer lies in “cover crops”. The Walton Family Foundation, with money earned from Walmart, has found such cover crops as winter wheat, cereal rye, clover or other cold-hardy plants provide a number of ecosystem services.
According to an article about an Iowa farmer Mitchell Hora written by Amy Saltzman in November 2019’s Environment Magazine, cover soils do multiple good things. Writes Saltzman:
“Cover crops prevent soil erosion by keeping plant ‘roots in the ground’ in cool seasons when corn and soybeans aren’t growing, absorbing nutrients that might otherwise leach into rivers and streams. They also increase organic matter and reduce the need for fertilizer.
And they help hold water, making land less susceptible to flooding and drought.”
With global warming, this last point is especially pertinent. According to the article, “In Iowa, farmer Mitchell Hora uses cover crops to protect against extreme weather. The rains started in early May 2019, a series of near-constant showers across southeastern Iowa that – over the course of the month – totaled 15 inches in all. But while thousands of farmers across the state and throughout the Midwest endured record rainfalls and heavy flooding that wreaked havoc during planting season, Mitchell Hora’s corn fields weathered the storms just fine. His secret? Cover crops, which he planted the previous fall.”
Said Mitchell about the use of cover crops: “A lot of other farmers had drown-outs where they had to replant. That costs a lot of money. In a farm economy that is super tight, anything you can do to save is huge. Our cover crops pulled the extra moisture out of the soil so our corn and soybeans didn’t drown out. We actually only had one acre that we had to replant, which is fantastic!”
Mitchell began planting cover crops four years ago on land his family has been farming for seven generations. The conservation practice is growing in popularity across Iowa and the Midwest as a way to build soil health and resilience.
What’s this all mean to you as you pass these farms and fields? Well for one thing, when kids argue nowadays, they cannot be so rude to describe dirt as dumb. In fact it is pretty smart at least if they are using cover crops.
#covercrops #MitchellHora #AmySaltzman #WaltonFamilyFoundation #IowaFarmers #ExitoftheDay #Extremeweather #Globalwarming #ClimateChange