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Partnerships key to expanding cover crop use

Side-by-side comparisons create an unbiased approach to soil management.

Forrest Laws

March 11, 2020

More and more farmers are interested in planting cover crops to help build their soils and improve moisture retention, but it can be difficult to adopt the practice if you’ve never seen it done in your area.

That’s why partnerships like the one in Greene County, Ark., between the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Arkansas State University and others are important.

“There is no way we could do the things we are doing in Greene County without these partners,” said Adam Eades, the NRCS district conservationist for the county. He discussed those efforts in a presentation at the Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference at Arkansas State University.

Through those partnerships, Greene County has compiled an impressive list of projects, beginning with a series of irrigation demonstrations with Arkansas State University, Extension and the NRCS in 2014.

“There was soil health research that started with ASU and with Terry and Clay Smith on their farming operation near Walcott in 2015,” said Eades. “Then there were five years that we did irrigation demonstrations with Extension and multiple producers.”

The county received a grant to do soil health demonstrations with Extension, NRCS, producers and private company representations beginning in 2018. Last fall, the partners helped plant cover crops that will become part of a row rice/soybean soil health demonstration running through 2022.

“The soil health demonstrations have been made possible by a grant from NRCS to Extension,” he noted. “This is helping us showcase the use of cover crops and no-till vs. no covers and tillage.

“We’re doing side-by-side field comparisons to not only share the good things, but to look at an unbiased approach to the changes that occur in management and to educate our local farmers.”

Since 2013, he said, the partners have held 28 field day events with a total attendance of more than 1,200 persons.

“All of that is in partnership with other agencies,” Eades said. “We never try to do anything alone because we can do more together than we can separately.”

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

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