From GENE LOGSDON
I get chided sometimes for harking back to the past too much but I can’t avoid it. Much of what constitutes farming today is harking back to the past. No better example is the increasing interest in cover crops, a practice as old as the hills. Instead of leaving crop fields bare over winter, they are planted in late summer or early fall to vegetation that keeps the soil covered until planting time the next spring. All kinds of advantages accrue. Protection against erosion of course, but also the cover crops take up soil nutrients that might otherwise leach away over winter and then release them back into the soil for crop plants to absorb the next year. Needless to say, what makes the practice especially attractive is that it is not only environmentally beneficial but almost immediately profitable since the government pays about half the cost. One of my favorite farmers likes to say when he thinks no one is listening except me, that he can’t understand why so many of his brethren are anti-government conservatives. “Taking advantage of government programs has been the key to our success,” he says.
Cover cropping is certainly a good thing as long as farming depends so completely on annual cultivation. (It is too much to hope that humans will ever be wise enough to keep most of the soil in forage and tree crops but at least there ought to be cover crop subsidies for hay and pasture too.) I will pretend to ignore that thought right now in favor of telling you about an almost hair-raising adventure that cover cropping provided me recently, if I had any hair to raise. I got a call from a neighboring farmer. He invited me to come see something he said was really interesting. “You have to see this to believe it,” he said. “A new machine that broadcasts cover crop seed into mature standing corn.”