Farm Data Shows Cover Crops Increase Soil Health Indicators

Soil Health Partnership, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, published data from a study of 96 farms over three to five years, showing that soil health indicators improved with the use of cover crops. Of six key soil health indicators (active carbon, soil organic matter, aggregate stability, available water capacity, respiration, and soil protein), four changed with use of cover crops. Furthermore, the effect of the cover crop increased with the amount of time cover crops had been used on the field. Soil Health Partnership notes that these indicators can translate into improvements in soil function around soil nutrient cycling and water management on the field, which can have benefits to farmers. The researchers pointed out that laboratory indicators are limited in their ability to reflect soil function in the field, meaning that it’s also important for farmers to pay attention to how indicators like infiltration, soil structure, and compaction are changing over time.