Renewable Farming

For every insect pest, there are hundreds of beneficial insects… if you encourage them

First,  here’s a link where you can download a new, free, 16-page guide to “Cover cropping for pollinators and beneficial insects.”  It’s from SARE — Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education.

Now, some reasons why variety in cover crops helps your entire farm ecology. Adding variety in your cover crop species multiplies habitat for beneficial insects — and bees. 

Cover crops on Hal Brown’s farm, November 2015

Cover crop enthusiast Hal Brown of Mulberry, IN raises seed wheat on about 250 acres each year so he can get an early start with cover crops after wheat harvest. It’s also an opportunity for upgrading tile on part of the farm each season. A few days ago Hal sent a message saying, “Our ditcher is finishing up a project in the wheat covers.  He says it is like working in a jungle. There are huge black spiders and bees everywhere, he says.  Did you know there are 1,700 beneficial insects for every one specie of bad insect?”

Hal also drills cover crops following corn and soybean harvest as long as weather permits. Covers are “the third crop every year,” he says.

Retired ARS/USDA scientist Bob Kremer has made the point at several farmer seminars that adding several species of cover crops multiplies the spectrum of beneficial soil organisms. Tillage radish alone, for instance, doesn’t encourage mycorrhizal fungi. The beneficial fungi are the “converters” of raw cellulose and lignin into active, stable humus.  

Thus, a “harvest” of cover crops is the bloom of beneficial “livestock” both above and below ground. 

John Kempf of Advancing Eco-Agriculture maintains that with cover crops and the right fungal cultures, you can build humus and foundational fertility as you grow a corn or soybean crop.  Kempf will present an online webinar Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 24, explaining how you can accomplish soil regeneration while you grow good yields.  Visit this link to register that educational opportunity.