BMS Spotlight – Cover Crops

Cover crops are grasses, legumes, and other forbs that are planted for erosion control, improving soil structure, moisture, and nutrient content, increasing beneficial soil biota, suppressing weeds,
providing habitat for beneficial predatory insects, facilitating crop pollinators, providing wildlife habitat, and as forage for farm
animals. Although cover crops can perform these multiple functions in an agroecosystem simultaneously, they are most often grown for the sole purpose of preventing soil erosion. Dense cover crop stands physically slow down the velocity of rainfall before it contacts the soil surface,
preventing soil splashing and erosive surface runoff. Additionally, vast cover crop root networks help anchor the soil in place and increase soil
porosity, creating suitable habitat networks for soil macrofauna.
This soil enrichment lasts for several years. Furthermore, cover crops can provide energy savings both by adding nitrogen to the soil and making more soil nutrients available, thereby reducing the need to apply fertilizer. The GLSD is working with Green Lake County Land Conservation on an outreach project to provide cost sharing for cover crops to farmers on critical lands in the watershed. The goal of this project is to reduce soil loss from these fields consequently reducing nutrient loading into Green Lake.