Grown Here at Home: The importance of cover crops

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MONETA, Va. (WDBJ7) One way farmers try to ensure they're growing the best product possible is by using cover crops.

On a wheat farm in Moneta, there’s a reason why they’ve planted a bunch of beans. They're a cash crop. But before the beans are planted, they have to get the soil ready. And that's where cover crops come into play.

“We plant a rye cover crop before to protect nutrients and soil and sediment erosion. So that gives us a great organic matter to start off our bean crop,” said WP Johnson of Wilmont Farms.

There are two bean crops growing. One was planted after growing a rye cover crop.

“We kill that rye down and plant beans into it. With this plot here we've had a full stand of oats, daikon radishes and clover. And with that we've got some deep tillage methods. We've got some nitrogen placement and fixation and also the oats break down the soil pathogens and the disease from the wheat crop," said WP.

He went on to say, "When we did this, we rolled the cover crop down and planted beans directly into it, which removed an entire process of spraying - so taking chemical out of the system, but also increasing our organic matter into our soil and replacement of nutrients. So we're trying it out to see how well it will work with our current cropping system. And if it works out great, we will actually transition a lot of our acres to that,” he explained.

And it all comes full circle through crop rotation. After the bean crop is harvested, they'll turn around and plant wheat in the soil.