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Why plant cover crops?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 100
Location: Piedmont, NC
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The earth on this little farm of ours that used to be a hay field is amazing to me.   It seems to know just what plants it needs to heal the ground.  Never has it been more evident to me than over the top of this area where we inserted pipeline this summer in August.  Out of seemingly nowhere comes up these "java" plants (this is what someone called them).  They are not evident anywhere else in the pasture.  As they look like pea or peanut plants, I am assuming they are nitrogen fixing.  If the earth will bring up these plants all by itself, why spend money for seed on cover crops?  I am really asking this question for someone to explain this to me and perhaps add more information that I haven't picked up on in the past. . .
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pipeline covered in new plants
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Posts: 90
Location: Minnesota
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While the earth does have a GREAT seed bank that can be useful to heal the wounds that are placed upon it. It can be useful to purchase seeds to speed up the healing process or to introduce some key plants that can help move things along in a direction of your choice.

For example you may want to introduce some HIGH protein clover to your pasture instead of any clover. Or you may want to introduce some preferred grass species that have a better digestibility rating then the native species that would show up.

Another example is that if you had seeded the pipeline the day after you filled it in you may have gotten some plants growing within the week.

I hope this helps you understand why it can be useful to purchase the seeds instead of just letting things grow.
 
Posts: 109
Location: Middle Georgia
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Sherri Lynn wrote:The earth on this little farm of ours that used to be a hay field is amazing to me.   It seems to know just what plants it needs to heal the ground.  Never has it been more evident to me than over the top of this area where we inserted pipeline this summer in August.  Out of seemingly nowhere comes up these "java" plants (this is what someone called them).  They are not evident anywhere else in the pasture.  As they look like pea or peanut plants, I am assuming they are nitrogen fixing.  If the earth will bring up these plants all by itself, why spend money for seed on cover crops?  I am really asking this question for someone to explain this to me and perhaps add more information that I haven't picked up on in the past. . .



I don't know what that plant is but I have TON of it all over my vegetable garden and it is invasive as hell. I thought it came with some "special chicken foraging blend" seeds that I bought a few years back. If you have them too then they were probably already here but didn't grow in the chicken coop until that area was cleared (good thing cause I hated to think I introduced them).

My small 20x40 garden is inundated with those darn things despite layers of mulch. I have literally pulled thousands of them this summer (they constantly come up, there is no "season") and just pray that they will eventually stop growing in that area. They are not peas/beans, that much I know.

 
Sherri Lynn
Posts: 100
Location: Piedmont, NC
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I think I have discovered it to be Senna Obtusifolia.  Yes, it can be very invasive.  It sure is nice to think it could be helpful, though.  Thankfully we should have a frost soon. . .
 
Lucrecia Anderson
Posts: 109
Location: Middle Georgia
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Sherri Lynn wrote:I think I have discovered it to be Senna Obtusifolia.  Yes, it can be very invasive.  It sure is nice to think it could be helpful, though.  Thankfully we should have a frost soon. . .



Thanks! I am glad to know what it is (and that I didn't introduce it).  Apparently it is native to the Southern US but invasive in Africa. It takes over when the soil is disturbed  -- when cleared for a chicken coop or vegetable garden apparently. You were right, it does appear to be some kind of legume. maybe it is nitrogen fixing? But I sure wouldn't encourage it as a cover crop.

https://keys.lucidcentral.org/keys/v3/eafrinet/weeds/key/weeds/Media/Html/Senna_obtusifolia_(Sicklepod).htm
 
Posts: 35
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It's interesting, I have read into the history of agriculture a bit and this is pretty much what they did in Olde Thyme Europe. Use the land for a while and then leave it fallow (covered in "weeds" that is) for a time to allow it to heal itself. Not a bad system if you HAVE to plow for reasons real or imagined. Actually close to ideal, I'd say.

Of course I don't think it's necessary anymore with the advent of techniques such as the ones discussed on this site (although they did feed animals off it so the fallow years weren't a complete waste either.).  I don't think there's a real reason for plowing though, except for getting rid of weeds, which can be otherwise taken care of. With hugelkultur or no-till etc. you can easily grow crops year round, nonstop, no need for fallow years or even inedible cover crops.

Actually, a lot of permaculture makes me wonder where the place for animals will be once this system of doing things is realized. In the Olde Days they kept animals on fallow land in between croppings, or on uplands not good for growing crops. But since we can grow crops year round now, and build the soil on uplands, what good are the livestock doing us? Crops will always be more productive than livestock where possible. And the manure isn't needed for fertility anymore either.

Some would have us all become vegans and do away with animal agriculture altogether. I don't like this, I think animal foods are at the very least a psychological and traditional necessity, and likely a physical one in some way we haven't figured out scientifically yet. The 'Murican way is to say screw efficiency and keep animals on good cropland. I don't think this is right either.

Best thing I've thought of so far is to keep some animals on orchards to keep the grass down, and dedicate a small amount of land to growing feed for them, "cut and carry" style (this can be much more efficient than even the best rotational grazing in terms of animals fed per acre when done right). I'm not such a fan of food forests because they don't allow you to do this. (actually I'm pretty sure a good orchard will out produce the best food forest, unless that food forest is really just an orchard with multiple fruit and nut trees.)

This would necessitate cutting down on animal product consumption of course but we wouldn't have to be vegans either. We could still have eggs with breakfast and milk in our tea and butter our toast. And have meat every now and then. That's what I eat like anyways, it's what makes me feel healthiest. So once I get off the grid and grow all my own food I should be able to maintain my current diet minus the tropical stuff like black tea and spices using this method.

Well I hope you've found my thoughts worthwhile. The first paragraph was the only one that really addressed your question, lol, sorry about that.
 
Posts: 127
Location: SW Ohio
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L. Tims wrote:Some would have us all become vegans and do away with animal agriculture altogether. I don't like this, I think animal foods are at the very least a psychological and traditional necessity, and likely a physical one in some way we haven't figured out scientifically yet. The 'Murican way is to say screw efficiency and keep animals on good cropland. I don't think this is right either.



There are nutrients that people can't produce in their own bodies, that aren't truly available in vegetable sources. The one I'm most familiar with is B-12. There is in fact extant research that demonstrates that the human body does in fact need SOME animal-based food to be healthy. Probably not nearly as much as the average American consumes, however, it is not possible to be truly vegan and yet not suffer malnutrition. B-12 is important in regulating mood, protecting and facilitating neurological health. Someone with a B-12 deficiency suffers from low energy, cognitive problems and mood problems.
From what I have read, hugelkultur and other permaculture gardens benefit from grazing, if it's done right. Animals can help reduce pests (EG ducks devouring bugs) and introduce nutrients to the soil by pooping. You can even design permaculture pasture specifically tailored to your livestock. We have lovely threads about what plants to include in chicken pastures, goat pastures, even rabbit and guinea pig pastures. I think it indicates we are shifting the way we use and raise animals, rather than eliminating the need for them.
 
Forget Steve. Look at this tiny ad:
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