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Cover Crops after Corn Silage, Benefits for Soil Health

A lot of people always ask me, so what is
the definition of soil health, how do i define it? Well NRCS defines soil health,
here’s the book definition. Soil health is defined as the continued capacity of
soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants animals
and humans. So there you go, there’s soil health. How do we bring that definition
to what I’d say real life agriculture? Real life agriculture systems we break
it down into four principles. The first principle is minimizing disturbance. The
second principle is keeping it covered. The third principle is living root
year-round, and the fourth principle is getting some diversity and rotation. So
when we look at when we look at what we’re doing here in this corn silage in
this case we have a rye – triticale cover crop. Let’s just think about this
what did we do by bringing this cover crop in the system to help with these
soil health principles. Well let’s look at the first one, first thing is minimizing disturbance. Do we see fall tillage here? No we didn’t. We
didn’t do fall tillage so we minimize some disturbance here.
Second thing is cover. Yes we got some green out here we got some cover going
on in a perfect world we’d like to see this I’ve seen these plantings after
corn silage a lot better but this is the year we’ve had. We may not have the cover now but definitely when it comes time in April we look at this field versus
something that was fall chiseled we’re going to have cover that cover helps
feed the system. Third principle is living rut year-round so what did we do
here this is a corn silage system we probably kept something alive that corn
plant from basically May first part of May till end of September first part of
October but nothing’s living after that. By adding rye for instance or triticale
rye is a winter annual we’re gonna have something alive in this soil from now
this time of year till when we plant something later.
Again the fourth principle when we look at diversity I’m gonna look at our
modern-day dairy systems right now our modern-day dairy system
per say could be corn silage basically two to three years corn silage probably
a direct seed in alfalfa. We look at diversity that corns that corn plant is a
warm season grass and that straight alfalfa is a cool season broadleaf.
By bringing this rye into rotation we’re bringing in a cool season grass
which helps feed different pools in our soil food web which is very
critical to help with production and keeping our soil good. So
really by just doing this one practice and putting in this cover crop this is
why cover crops are so key we realistically hit on all four
principles, how cool is that.

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