Study Finds Benefits of Cover Crops in Semi-Arid Areas

A review of studies on cover crops in dry regions, published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal, showed that benefits of cover crops extend into semi-arid areas. Lead researcher Humberto Blanco, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and colleagues focused on studies from the semi-arid Great Plains. They looked at ecosystem services including amount of organic carbon in soils, soil microbial properties, weed management, and food crop yields and found that in dry areas, cover crops increased soil organic carbon levels close to 60% of the time. The cover crops also helped suppress weeds and provide feed for livestock. Researchers did note that cover crops can reduce food crops’ yields during drought conditions, and they suggested that farmers may decide to plant cover crops only in wetter years, because success with cover crops requires accommodating weather conditions.