Dan DeSutter – SARE National Conference on Cover Crops & Soil Health

Dan DeSutter – SARE National Conference on Cover Crops & Soil Health


(gentle music) – Cover crops is a
interesting story. We had a professor
friend who needed a place to do some research
and she asked if we had a field that we would let her put some cover crops in and so forth. And my dad had had some
negative experiences with cover crops
back in the ’80s so we weren’t terribly
interested in cover crops but we agreed to do it for her, ’cause she helped us
on some other fronts. So we started to seed
annual rye grass. We didn’t really pay
that close of attention until, it was the
first week in April, and the rye grass
that year was probably eight inches tall,
maybe a little bigger, and I was out
fixing the tile hole and I dug a hole to get to
the tile to fix the hole and as I was down in the trench I could see roots
down four feet deep. And that was kinda
the Ah-Ha moment. I know that if we
add up the benefits, if we look at where
we’ve improved, one of the first farms we bought we’ve doubled the
organic matter. We’ve gone from 2% to 4%. That 2% organic matter
gives us 60 more units at the end of the year. At current market rates
of nitrogen values that’s at $0.50 a unit,
that’s $30 an acre per year. That same 2% of organic
matter is capable of holding about 16,000 gallons
of water per percentage so 32,000 gallons of water, that’s only in
the top 12 inches. We hope we’re
creating this phenomon even deeper, so
all these numbers I’m talking about are
in the top 12 inches. So they could be higher. But that’s equivalent to an
inch and quarter rainfall event that we get in August
after it quits raining that our neighbor doesn’t. Our cover crop plan,
or the reason why we want a cover
crop, is a long-term viewpoint that the sun
is our free resource and that any time
we have sunshine we want something
green and growing and putting carbon into the
soil, back into the soil as we try to rebuild
our organic matter back to what it once was. If I can retire someday, or
look out across the farm, and see that we’ve returned
some organic matter to close to equilibrium
for this area I’d be thrilled to death. (gentle music)

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