Sign up for News & Updates

CRAFT “Reviving Your Soil with Cover Crops” Field Day

The morning after a series of thunderstorms and strong winds moved through northern Illinois, twelve CRAFT members traveled along miles of wind-damaged cornfields to convene at Breslin Farms to learn about how the Breslins incorporate cover crops into their rotations. While the Breslin’s rye field experienced wind damage, our hosts remained optimistic about being able to harvest the crop, speculating about its resiliency due to years of cover crop benefits—nicely prefacing the day’s conversation.

Father-and-daughter team John and Molly Breslin are in their fourth year of transitioning a family farm from conventional to organic row crops. They focus on edible small grains and dry beans and have placed a priority on using cover crops at every opportunity.  The field day began with a slide show on the whys and hows of cover crops, including a comprehensive list of over a dozen benefits to both the farmer and the soil for cover crop usage. From nitrogen production and erosion control to bio-fumigation and allelopathy, the Breslin’s presented a convincing argument to seriously consider growing cover crops.

Molly Bresline of Breslin Farms, a CRAFT farm

After a hardy potluck lunch, we toured the fields and saw cover crops in action. John Breslin used a soil penetrometer in each field to determine the level of soil compaction—conducting live comparisons of their organic production and cover crops usage to compaction found in wheel tracks, headlands, conventional no-till fields and newly transitioned fields. The results were dramatic. This is one of those experiments you are encouraged to try at home!

Resources the Breslin’s have referenced frequently for information on cover crops include Crop Rotation on Organic Farms by Charles Mohler, Managing Cover Crops Profitably by SARE Outreach, and the Michigan State University Cover Crop Decision Making Tool.

Interested in attending a field day? Learn more about the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) at www.learngrowconnect.org/craft

See what resources the Farmer Training Initiative at Angelic Organics Learning Center is offering beginning farmers at www.learngrowconnect.org/farmer

 

By Jenny Meyer, Farmer Training Program Director