Ken Miller was startled to see the difference in the cover crops he planted south of Mandan, N.D., last year.
Miller, a Burleigh County Soil Conservation District specialist and a Mandan, N.D., rancher, compared different covers crops. He planted sunflower, turnips, cowpeas, millet, oilseed radish and several other cover crops in a test plot. He also mixed the seed together in several combinations – a "cocktail" – and planted them together.
In the side by side test, the species planted by themselves dried out and died in the drought in August. But the cocktail plantings thrived.
Miller told attendees at BCSCD's "Soil Health Workshop" in Bismarck Tuesday that he thinks that the quick canopy cover that occurred in the cocktail mixes made the difference. In the monoculture planting, the soil temperature was 107 degrees at 4 p.m. in the afternoon on day in August when the air temperature was 105 degrees. But the soil in the cocktail planting, the soil temperature was only 87 degrees.
"It's quite exciting to see what cover crops will do," he says. "We have probably just scratched the surface on this."