Posts Tagged: Cover Crops
KQED reporter Mark Schapiro discovered a "center of insurrection" at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points, where UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist Jeff Mitchell has been building soil on a research plot for 20 years.
Schapiro's story was part of a series titled "Reckoning in the Central Valley," a collaboration between Bay Nature magazine and KQED Science examining how climate change is exposing the vulnerabilities of California agriculture.
In the Central Valley, climate change is disrupting the predictability that is key to maintaining a profitable industrial agriculture system. Mitchell believes that employing practices that build soil - such as reducing or eliminating tillage and planting cover crops - will help farmers ride the wave of climate change.
It's that cover-cropped field “that is the real disruptor here," Mitchell said.
The soil in test plots where cover crops were grown are loaded with far more organic matter than soil in fields where cover crops were not grown. The organic matter improves water absorption, making the land more resilient to drier conditions. Fields with cover crops also sequester carbon and produce crops that may be more nutritious.
“What you see in Five Points,” said Daphne Miller, a physician who studies the links between the health of the foods we eat and the soil in which they're grown, “is that the plots with the greatest diversity of cover crops had the most diverse microbiome in the soil.”
So you're a rural landowner thinking about planting cover crops in your fields or orchards. And/or, you want to learn more about beneficial...
Larva of lady beetle munching on an aphid. (Photo by Kathy Keeatley Garvey)
A multi-colored Asian beetles snags an aphid. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
These are lady beetle eggs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a presentation I gave at farm advisor Steve Koike's plant disease seminar in Salinas, November 4, 2015.
Rather than using herbicides in caneberry growing tunnels, the UC Integrated Pest Management program suggests planting a cover crop to prevent weeds in anchor rows.
Cover crops in anchor rows can suppress weed growth and help to minimize soil erosion and nutrient and sediment loss when it rains. Densely planted cover crops can out compete weed seedlings germinating from the soil and prevent wind-dispersed seeds from reaching the wet soil surface.
Cover crops are especially helpful when managing weeds that are difficult to control with fumigation because of their hard impermeable seed coats (mallows and filaree), or resistance to herbicides such as glyphosate and paraquat (hairy fleabane and horseweed).
Cover crops can be managed with mowing or herbicides to avoid seed production.
For all the details, see the newly revised weed section in the Caneberries Pest Management Guidelines on the UC IPM web site.