What Are Cover Crops All About?
It’s growing season at our farms in Arizona, which means fresh hemp is on the way! But have you ever wondered what happens on our farms in the off-season of growing hemp? Since hemp only takes 3-4 months to complete its full growth before harvest, that means our fields are left empty for majority of the year. Or does it? Along with many other farms around the world, at GorillaFarmCo we utilize cover crops in our off-season to benefit us and benefit the earth, and here’s how:
The Purpose of Cover Crops
As opposed to cash crops, cover crops are not sold for profit and occupy the farmland in between growing seasons at a farm in order to protect the earth and preserve the soil. In addition to soil protection, cover crops smother weeds, enhance water availability and help control pests. All of these are beneficial to the farm and to the earth in contrast with leaving fields bare to the elements in off-season months. Some common cover crops include:
- Austrian Winter Peas
5 Ways That Cover Crops Help the Earth
1. Increase Biodiversity – Cover crops provide food and habitat to various forms of insects and wildlife, increasing biodiversity both on a farm and its surrounding area. This is important above and below the soil in order to maintain a thriving ecosystem and not drive out existing wildlife with harmful farming practices.
2. Help with Soil Coverage – During the growing season of primary crops, the ground is exposed to the elements while roots take place and plants begin to grow. The residue from cover crops protects the soil while harvest crops are established, contributing to a bountiful and healthy harvest.
3. Prevent Soil Erosion – Cover crops prevent excess runoff from rainfall and snowmelt, preventing soil erosion. This helps keep healthy topsoil in place, and preserves important nutrients, minerals and wildlife below its surface.
4. Reduce Soil Compaction – Soil compaction occurs when layers of the dirt are put under stress and air is displaced from the pores in between grains of soil, leading to densification and ultimately, poor growing conditions. Farms often use cover crops whose roots can penetrate deeper into soil layers and prevent compaction.
5. Improve Soil Structure & Stability – Cover crops help improve the biological, chemical and physical properties of soil. With a regular cover crop regimen, organic matter within the soil is increased, which leads to improved nutrient and moisture holding capacity as well as more stable soil structure. Ultimately, this leads to reduced runoff and healthier crops!
How Does It Work?
Cover crops are planted following the harvest of cash crops on a farm. They remain in the fields until the spring, when they are safely killed off and left on the surface to be used as soil coverage or as a natural manure for the harvest crops. Using cover crops is just one way that GorillaFarmCo honors the earth that we use to grow our hemp, and it increases our yield, too!
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