Planting Cover crops with your potatoes may increase production

Published: Feb. 19, 2016 at 4:51 PM MST
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The Soil & Water Conservation Districts in Cassia and Minidoka County held a Soil Health Workshop on February 17 in Burley. The Workshop focused on ways landowners can improve their soil and the water holding capacity of the soil by using cover crops. Over 100 people attended the educational workshop.

Planting cover crops in your potatoes can INCREASE production, not compete with your cash crop as many feared. Guest Speaker Brendon Rockey from Colorado successfully grows potatoes and improves his farm's soil health every season as he applies his "biotic " approach to farming which includes NO chemical dependencies and includes cover crops . Cover crops planned and selected for specific characteristics do not compete but support and build crop success. Some benefits of implementing a cover crop plan into your farming operation includes increased nitrogen, positive insect habitat, improved soil health, increased water infiltration and holding capacity, and increased cash crop yield.

Brendon's approach focuses on life. On his farm, biological inputs like companion crops, animals, cover crops, and flowers replace synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. His system sustains yields, has greater water efficiency, and it supports a flourishing ecosystem encouraging beneficial insects, soil microbes and carbon cycling.

Dynamic regional soil agronomist Marlon Winger spoke on the elements of productive soil and provided a clear demonstration with a rainfall simulator which demonstrates the benefits of keeping the soil covered.

Other speakers included Keith Berns, experienced soil health educator and creator of the SMARTmix Calulator, Nick Treasure, Rupert FSA, and Carlo Moreno, Extension Educator. Topics for workshop included "A Biotic Approach to Potato Production", "The Value of Cover Crops", Healthy Soil", The Food Security Act Requirements", and Cover Crops & Integrated Pest Management". Also included were testimonials from local farmers who currently are experimenting with cover crops on their farms.

Thanks to the Minidoka, West Cassia, and East Cassia Soil & Water Conservation Districts for hosting the workshop. Also THANKS to the following businesses that have provided financial support to make the workshop possible: AgriSource Inc., Allied Seed, BMZ Bio Ag, DL Evans Bank, Golden Valley Warehouse, Green Cover Seed, Hawkes Fieldworks, Helena Chemical, Idaho Ag Credit, Landview Fertilizer, Northwest Farm Credit Services, Pheasants Forever, Rocky Mountain Ag, Simplot Grower Solutions, University of Idaho, US Bank, Western Seed and Zion's Bank.

The Soil Districts will continue to hold educational activities as well as rent the direct seed drills to farmers interested in trying the cover crop practice on their own farm.

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