Hello world! A blog about Arid Zone Summer Cover Cropping

Welcome to my first ever blog post.

The intention is to share ideas and seek advice re summer cover cropping in my area.

You see, in some circles the idea of growing a non-cash crop, to be brown or green manured    for the sake of building up soil health is neither new nor uncommon.  Growing vetch here for incorporating is sometimes done.  In gardening and organic circles it seems it is commonplace.  And in the USA there a whole cover crop seed industry spanning over a decade.

But not here.  Right here we have an average 14.5″ yearly rainfall, growing season around 10″ (250mm) from April to November.  Cool season harvest begins around mid November, and sowing around late April, depending on attitudes to risk.  That leaves a window of December to March to have something growing, harvesting sunlight, using up shallow moisture which is doomed to evaporate anyway, and feeding soil bugs with root exudates.  Normally summer weeds will depress the next cash crop yields, and keeping them dead, with singular or multiple spraying passes can easily be a good investment.  Summer weeds suck up moisture, nutrients and in many cases end up in the way.  They could be, for all I know, be depressing cash crop yields in other ways not so obvious (allelopathy, pest and disease contributions, etc).

I intend to shout out to those who have given their time to conversations, to let them in on my progress, to discuss species and cultivar choices and supplies, and hopefully contribute to the building of what could become a growing industry in Australia.

This is NOT to debate or defend the idea.  I don’t know if it will work here, or if it will be profitable overall.  If not, it might explain why for the last 6 months I haven’t found anyone in the whole of Australia doing what I have in mind.  (Or maybe they know it is an unusual practice and are keeping quiet.)  I have met and spoken with some who are making it work, albeit in different parts of the world with different soils and climates.  I will welcome some debate:  feel free to ask “Why (that detail)?”  But there are plenty of other resources to learn about ‘Why cover crop at all?’  I won’t tell you why, and I won’t spend time trying to defend the idea, even if it seems crazy and paradoxical.  Go, google, read, learn, then come back.  I believe the idea has merit, and I intend to find out in the paddock.  It is the joy of being a self employed farmer, albeit a two-edged sword;  we live what we believe.

So, since a blog can garner global views, this is my next step.  Especially since it is many months now till I sow the next ‘summer crop’ trial.

I will probably touch on some other ideas as well, related to ‘how to grow a better wheat crop’, especially as it relates to trials.

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About covercropper

G'day, I'm a grain grower in the NW Wimmera area of Victoria, Australia. This blog is to share my journey of exploring cover cropping here, mostly summer mixes /cocktails. How to, what, when, will it work in improving our soils, productivity and profits?
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3 Responses to Hello world! A blog about Arid Zone Summer Cover Cropping

  1. Gabe Brown says:

    I applaud your efforts and encourage you to continue. Having just been in Australia I can tell you thet there are farmers planting cover crops there as I stood in them! The drier the climate the more important it becomes to increase water holding capacity and reduce evaporation. The way to do this is by increasing the amount of Organic Matter in your soils and by increasing the amount of residue on the soil surface. Approximately two-thirds of your OM increase will come from roots. A single monoculture cash crop will not do it. The drier the climate the more important it is to grow cover crops. It is hard for producers to understand this. I had to prove it to myself on my own land first, but it does work.

  2. covercropper says:

    Thanks Gabe for your encouragement. That is the plan, and goes a long way in explaining “Why?”
    Gabe’s website is brownsranch.us If you search his name, he pops up all over the place. He and Ken Miller were kind enough to “visit” with me on their way to the SANTFA conference where they were the international Key Note Speakers for 2012.

  3. Dave Robison says:

    I appreciate your efforts on cover cropping and blogging! It’s amazing what we see in the Midwest of the USA on how cover crops are working so well. I was in soil pits this week and found earthworm channels 48″ deep and annual ryegrass and cereal rye roots that deep as well. Our crimson clover is producing lots of nodules and so are the Austrian Winter peas. Stay in touch and keep up the great work!

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