Sunn Hemp Plants

Episode 222: Do Cover Crops Steal Water? Part 1

In this episode of Voices from the Field, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Colin Mitchell sits down with Dr. Alexis Racelis of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to discuss the use of cover crops in semi-arid subtropical environments.

In particular, the conversation centers on the Subtropical Soil Health Initiative, a research partnership between NCAT and UTRGV to address soil health challenges in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

While cover crops are heralded as a regenerative agriculture tool to improve soil health, in drier climates integrating cover crops into farming systems can be challenging. Colin and Dr. Racelis discuss whether cover crops even can be detrimental in some scenarios and steal water from cash crops.

Dr. Racelis is an associate professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Biology and the School for Earth, Environmental, and Marine Science at UTRGV. He leads the Agroecology and Resilient Food Systems program, which focuses on participatory research and education in restorative agriculture, agroecology, soil conservation and management, and food and farm justice.

Dr. Racelis also is a board member of NCAT and leads the UTRGV team on the NCAT Subtropical Soil Health Initiative.

This podcast was produced by the National Center for Appropriate Technology through the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program under a cooperative agreement with USDA Rural Development. This podcast was also made possible in part by funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, Grant #69-3A75-17-281. ATTRA.NCAT.ORG.

Related ATTRA Resources:

NCAT Soil for Water Project
NCAT is scaling up its Soil for Water project to include livestock producers and farmers across eight states.Soil for Water supports a network of farmers and ranchers who are taking steps to catch and hold more water in the soil through land management practices that improve soil health, reduce erosion, sustain diverse plant and animal life, and filter out pollutants.The project grew out of persistent droughts, which are straining agricultural producers across the country. It combines the use of appropriate technology, peer-to-peer learning, and on-farm monitoring to encourage the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices.The Soil for Water project is about building lasting infrastructure that will make farms, ranches and communities more resilient in the face of persistent drought and other natural disasters across the eight-state project region. Learn more at

Other Resources:
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Agroecology and Resilient Food Systems Program

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