BAYFIELD — This autumn watch for signs in the Bayfield and Lake Huron tributary watersheds that declare ‘We’ve Got it Covered!’ These signs have been placed along fields where cover crops (e.g., Clover; Radish; Ryegrass; Sunflower) have been planted earlier in the year.
Cover crops are crops which cover the soil in between cropping seasons. In this area, cover crops are often planted after wheat and are left in the ground over the winter. Keeping the ground covered during this time helps reduce wind and water erosion during large storm events and snow melts. In turn, this keeps valuable soil out of creeks, rivers and Lake Huron. Reduced erosion is just one benefit of cover crops. In addition to this, they can add organic matter, reduce nutrient losses, improve fertility, reduce compaction and aid in water management depending on what species are planted.
The aim of this campaign, which was adapted after one that took place in New Hampshire, is to recognize farmers who are making these efforts on their land, and to encourage others to think about how they could use cover crops in their operations.
“Cover crops help producers protect and improve their soil, and in doing so, the water they protect benefits everyone,” said Hope Brock, Health Watersheds Technician with Ausable Bayfield Conservation.
Thanks to funding from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, landowners in the Bayfield and Lake Huron tributary watersheds were eligible for an enhanced cost-share Cover Crop Boost Program that offered $30 per acre, up to 100 acres, for planting cover crops. This program could also be paired with funding from the Huron County Clean Water Project, which provided an additional $15 per acre. In total, more than 2,000 acres of cover crops were planted through the Boost Program.
“We are pleased to see so many producers interested in planting cover crops and it has been great to be able to support them in doing so,” said Brock.
Interested in cover crops, but not sure where to start? You may contact your local cover crop seed supplier (www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/resource/covercrp.htm), talk to your neighbour, or contact your certified crop advisor.
Farmers may also want to use the cover crop decision tool here: decision-tool.incovercrops.ca
If you are a farmer planting cover crops in the Bayfield and Lake Huron tributary watersheds, and you would be interested in a sign on your farm, contact Hope Brock at Ausable Bayfield Conservation at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free 1-888-286-2610, extension 246.