Cover crops improve soil health and reduce pollution to help local water quality.
Cover crops are planted in the fall to manage soil health, erosion, pollution, and water quality. Harborview Farms has been planting cover crops for over 20 years. Today, we plant cover crops on 90-95% of our acres.
The ultimate goal of cover crops is to improve the health of the soil. We perform soil sampling and testing each year to get an accurate measurement of soil health. These tests have revealed that many of our fields have gained organic matter over the last 14 years.
In terms of specific crops, Harborview typically plants cereal rye, barley, wheat, tillage radishes, triticale, crimson clover, and others. The cover crops soak up nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil to prevent pollution into the nearby Chesapeake Bay. Without cover crops, the soil would be left bare between growing seasons, which would increase pollution runoff and decrease soil fertility.
Recently, Harborview Farms has become apart of a High-Yield Conservation project, which is funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The project was created to help farmers maximize high-yield results by matching conservation-minded farmers with a team of expert advisers. HYC will track Harborview's cover crops as well as help implement multiple cover crop trials throughout the year. As part of the project, we collaborated with Dr. Ray Weil of the University of Maryland to perform a study on the benefits of deep-rooted nitrogen cover crops. Click here to learn more about our collaboration with the High-Yield Conservation project.