What effects can cover cropping and no-till practices have on pasture soil health?
Answer: Exceptional attention to soil health through the use of no-till farming, diverse cover crops, and intensive rotational cattle grazing can allow farms and ranches to become increasingly profitable. A forage-based cropping system routinely removes most plant biomass from the land by baling hay or chopping silage. This results in inadequate plant residue for healthy soil biology function and soil protection. One solution is to grow a multispecies cover crop cocktail after an early forage harvest to add needed residue, organic matter, and available soil nutrients for the subsequent cash crop.Converting marginal cropland back to grazing land can be accomplished by planting several years of a diverse cover crop mixture containing legumes, tap roots, and more. A cover crop cocktail helps break up the old plow layer, increase nutrient cycling, and improve productivity. Additionally, some farmers are converting Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land back to crop production with the goal to increase nutrient cycling and break down old residue while maintaining the no-till benefits gained during the CRP period. To do this, many have planted a low-carbon cover crop cocktail with no cool-season grasses. For more information, watch the ATTRA webinar Innovative No-Till: Using Multi-Species Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health, available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjI2zWf4uMI. This webinar addresses multi-species cover crops that can be used to improve soil health, increase biological diversity, and benefit the farm or ranch bottom line. Additionally, check out these four ATTRA case studies of farms utilizing no-till:? No-Till Case Study, Bauer Farm: Cover Crop Cocktails on Former CRP Land https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=420? No-Till Case Study, Brown’s Ranch: Improving Soil Health Improves the Bottom Line https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=414 ? No-Till Case Study, Miller Farm: Restoring Grazing Land with Cover Crops https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=422 ? No-Till Case Study, Richter Farm: Cover Crop Cocktails in a Forage-Based System https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=417