Regenerating Soils – Crop Covers

Soil health is an essential aspect of sustainable agriculture and has a significant impact on the productivity and sustainability of farmland. After a season or many seasons of growing crops and then needing to regenerate the soil during the off-season by fallowing the field to regenerate, one of the best ways to achieve this is by using crop covers or green manuring. As Fairview Estates was formerly a sugar cane farm for many years, crop covers can play a vital role in regenerating the soils.

What are crop covers?
Crop covers are plants that are planted to improve the conditions of the soil, rather than for the purpose of being harvested.

There are many benefits of using crop covers, some of these are:

  • Help to fix atmospheric nitrogen
  • Reduce soil erosion
  • Suppress weeds, which reduces the need for chemical herbicides
  • Improve soil structure and promote beneficial microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and earthworms, which play an essential role in maintaining soil fertility
  • Support biodiversity and beneficial insects/organisms

Here are a few examples of what you can use as crop covers:
Dry beans, sunn hemp, buckwheat, black and white oats, rye grass, wheat, sunflower, flax, marigold, cow peas, velvet beans, Forage Sorghum Pearl millet/Babala and many more. Consult with a local seed company to achieve your desired outcome by using relevant species suited to soil types and climate/season.

Regenerating soils by using crop covers is a long-term process that requires patience and persistence. However, the benefits of using crop covers are outstanding, and they can lead to improved soil health, reduced environmental impact, increased productivity, and biodiversity.

The Wacher family on site 122 have planted a magnificent crop cover, and after having sugar cane for so long, it is wonderful to see how it is thriving. When you drive up the road you are greeted with sunflowers smiling down at you. I personally have started diverting my route to drive past this site daily, and enjoy the show that the birds put on, they look so happy flying in and out of the crops.

At all costs – try and avoid the use of chemicals. Chemicals such as Glyophosphate (Roundup) do not offer any beneficial affects to the site or soil. In fact, it could be argued they are detrimental to the soils and soil life.