MASON CITY, Iowa - We're still about a month out from planting season, but a recently concluded study is giving farmers something to consider - cover crops.
A 10-year study done by the Iowa Living Farms and participating farmers across the state is looking at the effects cover crops have on soil health. This done with planting strips of cereal rye, which is typically planted in the fall and can last through harsh winters, in corn and soybean fields.
Stefan Gailans with the Practical Farmers of Iowa, one of the partners in the study, says the benefits are overwhelmingly positive, particularly with water retention.
"Longer term use has been shown to improve soil structure and water infiltration. When we get heavy rains, the water isn't washing over the surface and taking soil with it; rather, it's seeping into the ground and percolating below the surface profile. Likewise, when it's really dry, because water is allowed to infiltrate, percolate into the soil, there's better storage of water during hot, dry periods for crops to access during the summer."
In the past 10 years, he's been seeing more farmers jump on board.
"We're seeing closer to a million acres of cover crops. It was a fraction of that 10 years ago."
Farmers also reported that properly managed cover crops had increased corn and soybean yields.