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North country farmers see benefits of crop cover

Cover crops
Cover crops(WWNY)
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 9:40 AM EDT
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TOWN OF HOUNSFIELD, N.Y. (WWNY) - Spring is the time of year for farmers to take to the fields and prepare their crops. Some are getting help from the ground itself.

You may see some green on the ground and think that it’s early for crops. But, these are no ordinary crops; they’re cover crops.

“It’s just a crop that’s planted outside of harvesting crops. So, we have a harvested crop that’s taken off the fields and instead of leaving the soil bare, we make sure we have something living and growing in the ground 365 days of the year,” said Mike Hunter, Cornell Cooperative Extension field crop specialist.

It’s a technique that has been used at Old McDonald’s Farm for years.

“When you cover the ground, you’re preventing those losses of wind or water erosion as well as nutrients, and you can keep those for the year,” said Jake Ledoux, North Harbor Dairy.

A cover crop of rye will not only protect the soil from the beating sun, flooding and wind, it can also be used when a cash crop like corn is ready to take its place.

“You can either mow it and feed it to cattle or you could turn it over as a form of green manure,” said Ledoux.

The soil is hard to see through the rye, but it’s moist and level.

In a field which does not have a cover crop, the soil is wet and muddy, there are weeds popping up, the ground is broken by wind and sun exposure, and there’s some erosion happening. Excess water that can’t be absorbed is washing right through.

Experts say cover crops are gaining popularity, especially in the north country, where the weather can be harsh and unpredictable.

“Maybe you’re not making money per se, but it’s saving you money through protecting your soil which in turn protects your farm,” said Ledoux.

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