ALLEN COUNTY — Matt Burkholder is a believer in the benefits of planting cover crops.
He recently completed training through the Nature Conservancy to become a farmer advocate.
“It’s to help farmers and educate them in regards to water quality, soil health, conservation and things like that,” Burkholder said.
Burkholder planted his first cover crop in 2009 but couldn’t find anyone locally to guide him through the process.
“The cover crop took off growing. It was growing really well, and I was like, ‘OK, what do I do? How do I plant a field of soybeans into this? Do I do this?’” Burkholder said. “I didn’t have anybody locally that would be willing to come to my farm, stand there, look at it with me and talk through a management plan.”
That’s where a farmer’s advocate would come in.
“This year will be my 10th year of continuous no-till and cover crops on some of my fields that I farmed,” Burkholder said. “So partnering with the Nature Conservancy, we’ve taken the training. I’m the local farmer advocate in Allen County, to help farmers in these areas with regenerative agriculture, planting cover crops, using no-till.”
Farmers looking for answers to their cover crop questions can contact Burkholder through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call him at 567-289-1897.
So what are the advantages of planting a cover crop?
“So let’s say, for example, we have a corn crop growing,” he said. “It grew throughout the year. In the fall, a corn crop starts to die. There’s leftover nutrients in the soil that the corn crop did not use. So if you plant a cover crop in there, the cover crop is going to sequester those nutrients and tie them up, hold on to them and use them over winter.
“Even once a cover crop goes dormant in the winter, it’s going to hold on to it. If you pick a certain cover crop, it’s going to prevent the nutrients from leaching into the soil and going into the groundwater. Then the cover crop in the spring is going to come out of dormancy, and it’s going to provide natural weed suppression.”
There’s also a benefit with all the nutrients in the soil, he said.
“Then the nutrients that it sequestered from the fall, it’s still got ahold of those nutrients,” he said. “So when you plant the next cash crop in the spring after you terminate the cover crop, the cover crop is going to release the nutrients to the following cash crop and the cover crop also helps prevent erosion.”
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.