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How Cover Crops Enhance Soil Health – and Seed Coatings Enhance Both

December 19, 2023

For row crop operations soil is essential. Investing in the condition and health of your soil is also an investment in your crops, your profits, and the long-term health of your operation— as well as the value, equity, and legacy of farmland.

Common production approaches are only now just starting to integrate soil health into operations when they hadn’t before. Unfortunately, typical or “best” practices don’t include, or take into account, soil health—but this is where soil health strategies, including the use of cover crops and seed coating technology, come into the picture.

Here’s how cover crops enhance soil health— and seed coatings enhance both.

Why enhance soil health? | Protecting your land’s equity and legacy.

It’s best to factor soil health into your operations much like you would factor in property values or foundation when working in real estate. You could build a house, infrastructure, or business on a certain piece of land— but if the foundation is weak, or there is another problem with the property, how fruitful would construction be on said property? What issues could emerge further down the road that create expensive repairs or alterations, but which could be avoided with some time-consuming— though affordable and necessary— investments up front?

The same could be said for soil health in production. In the long run, farmers face issues with nutrient depletion, topsoil loss, decreasing crop resiliency, and essentially profit dips (and increasing dependency on expensive inputs) if soil health is left by the wayside. This is why more growers are taking the time to invest in soil health, even if it draws time and labor away from primary operations.

It’s a long-term investment that pays off in the long run— and if you have a family history or even a brand legacy attached to land ownership, why not invest in the one thing your land needs to keep the farm legacy strong for years to come: the soil that nourishes your crops?

How cover crops enhance soil health | Raising your profits and crop resiliency

More and more growers are adopting cover crops to promote the longevity of their land and businesses. Without investing back into your soil, you may lose an edge on your profits and crop resiliency— because crops need healthy soils to survive and thrive.

Because some cover crops are not “cash crops” (though most are: they can be grown as animal feed, forage, commercial grains, or even annual vegetables), it can feel like you’re losing profitability on acreage during the years you implement them. But here’s what farmers have found from integrating cover crops into their businesses: less need for inputs, stronger crops, more drought resilience, and a long-term spike in profits with a reduction of overhead costs.

Cover crops reduce soil movement and erosion.

Lack of healthy soil often leads to topsoil loss. This can then lead to nutrient loss, and drastic reduction in the effectiveness of your nutrient inputs (such as nitrogen or phosphate), which can be expensive. When you use cover crops, these can be planted on unused acreage or bare soil to help keep topsoil (and nutrient inputs) in place for next year.

Cover crops boost organic matter – which boosts crop drought resistance.

When terminated and tilled in, cover crops add green manure and organic matter to your soil. This also helps with soil structure and combating topsoil loss. It can also improve soil structure in such a way that boosts water retention—thus helping crops survive and thrive through drought periods more successfully, thereby boosting profits.

Cover crops can enhance nutrient levels and availability to your crops.

Some cover crops (specifically legume varieties like alfalfa, peas, red clover, and more) form important relationships with soil bacteria that naturally produce nutrients for crops, and especially nitrogen. In addition to the green manure cover crops can return to soils once they are terminated and tilled, growing cover crops strategically with bacterial inoculants (like Rhizobia bacteria) can boost nitrogen and health in your crops with a reduced need for expensive nitrogen inputs from year to year.

How do seed coatings amplify cover crop success?

One of the challenging aspects to using cover crops: they come with all the same obstacles and required strategies for success that main season commercial crops do. Cover crops also require protection, management, nourishment and irrigation (though to a lesser degree than most main season crops)— plus strong seedling vigor for success, even in the uncommon cases that they cannot be translated into commercial revenue to give returns on that labor.

This is where seed coating technology can come into play: for cover crop success as well as the success of subsequent crops to follow. Besides pesticide or fungicide treatments, seed coatings can provide further drought protection, nutrient supplication, and even the required soil bacteria for nutrient replenishment (paired with legume crops) to deliver the returns growers are seeking through cover crop plantings— and to ensure these crops on their own establish successfully today. Get in touch with Summit Seed Coatings to learn more about how our technologies boost cover crop success.

seeds with seed coatings being planted by hand in soil

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