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Cover crops release more nutrients than they accumulate

Cover crops release more nutrients than they accumulate

Sometimes I wonder if amazing discoveries wouldn’t be even more celebrated when sold for more money. Like exercise…if it were a pill, everyone would be taking it; its benefits are so miraculous. Well, that’s how cover crops are too, although they do cost money.

Joel Gruver, Western Illinois University agronomist, planted specific cover crops in a band, then after their termination, he pulled soil samples in the cover crop row and compared them to samples taken 15 inches off the row. There were substantial differences in soil-test levels of P and K—“comparable to a nutrient-banding effect from a commercial fertilizer (banding) applicator,” Gruver says.

“The levels of available fertility are higher than what could have been scavenged by the cover crop, so somehow the cover crops released additional nutrients beyond what they could have accumulated themselves. They were simply made more available. We do know that radishes can easily scavenge 150-200 pounds N per acre when planted in a timely fashion,” he says. “And, radishes will absorb at least as much K as N, and high amounts of P and other nutrients. It is remarkable to see.”

Check out Gruver’s educational video for inspiration on using precision-ag technology to document cover crops’ amazing powers.

TAGS: Conservation
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