Ag Alert Jan. 12, 2022

Cover Continued from Page 7

He said it is critical to manage mow- er height and frequency when mowing cover crops. Karen Lowell, aUSDA agronomist, said it isgood for farmers to thinkof cover crops as a tool that, amongother things, increas- es water infiltration and holding of water, and lessens pooling and runoff. It keeps water where it landed—on the land. In a press release issued after the virtu- al meeting, researchers noted that cover crops also can help groundwater sustain- ability agencies. Jef f Mi tchel l of the Universi ty of California, Davis, recommended that groundwater sustainability agencies ex- pand their viewof cover crops beyond re- mote sensing images that see thecovers as “water-using vegetation.” “This approach may not account for the important benefits that winter cover cropsprovideSan JoaquinValley farmers,” Mitchell said. Cover crops grown during the winter may not use a lot of soil water because evapotranspiration during this period tends to be low. They also provide shad- ing that cools the soil surface. Inaddition, Mitchell said, cover crops can improve soil aggregation, pore space and soil moisture retention. (Denni s Pol lock i s a repor t er in F r e s no . He ma y b e c on t a c t e d a t basic in the formof:Whodo I go to?Where can I reach them? Who has jurisdiction? Andhowcan I get aproject throughapro- cess?” she said. “Unfortunately, we also havepeoplewho find themselves after the fact with some pretty intimidating letters and phone calls from our federal agen- cies, and that is because they know it is a big deal with such heavy consequences. They’reafraidofwhat theymayhavedone wrong and feel unprepared.” Ted Schneider of the National Cotton Council ofAmericaandaLouisianacotton farmer said farmers want a pristine envi- ronment and cleanwater. “We aren’t opposed to regulation at all when regulation is necessary, but for it to beeffective, ithas tobeworkable, clearand consistent,” Schneider said. ColoradorancherJamesHenderson,vice president of the stateFarmBureau, said the proposed rule “will have an absolutely real andadverse effect onmy ability to conduct my business and create disparate impacts onour rural andagricultural economies.” TheEPAandtheDepartmentof theArmy have scheduled the followingvirtual public meetings on the rule: Jan. 12, from7 to 10 a.m.; Jan. 13, from11a.m. to2p.m.; andJan. 18, from2to5p.m.Thepubliccommentpe- riod is scheduled tocloseFeb. 7. For more information, see www.epa. gov/wotus/revising-definition-waters -united-states. (Chr i s t ine Souza i s an ass i s tant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at

Information may be found on cov- er crops such as annual ryegrass, a cool-season grass that grows 2 to 4 feet tall. That planting option, for example, does well on heavy, waterlogged soils, yet also will survive drought. USDA provides details on when to plant and at what soil depth and the best way to terminate the planting. The downside for ryegrass is its ten- dency to bemoderately invasive, as it can be very difficult to eradicate once estab- lished. Itmaybe resistant tocommonher- bicides andmay competeexcessivelywith grapevines and orchards, necessitating intensemowing regimes. Growers may also go to the SmartMix Calculator site at smartmix.greencover seed.comand create a customcover crop mix that’s just right for their field. The site helps identify thestrengthsandweakness- es of selections. Tom Johnson, an agronomist with Kamprath Seeds, reiterated the idea that cover cropping will take time—pos- sibly two to five years—to show quanti- fiable results. “It’s not a silver bullet but part of a program to address soil issues,” he said. He said an advantage of cover crop- ping is that it reduces dust in orchards and vineyards and, alongwith that, curbs mite pressures. He added that adding

Grasses sprout in an orchard. Harvest considerations may dictate whether planting a cover crop is feasible. Researchers say covers may take several years before showing quantifiable results.

organic matter “will reduce cracks over time, gluing the soil together.” Johnson also stressed the need to consider the crop being grown and its harvest. For example, is the cropwalnuts or pistachios, which should not land on the ground during harvest? Is it almonds, which must be scooped up from the ground?Are the raisingrapes driedon the vine, or will they be dried on paper trays between vines? Those differences, he said, figure into whether a ground cover is feasible during harvest. Johnson said there are considerations before attempting cover cropping. For

example, cover crops can increase hu- midity andmodify temperature. They can harbor pathogens or virus vectors. They may increase rodents and other verte- brate pests. “It’s aproduction tool,” Johnsonsaid. “If it’s not working, take it out.” Si las Rossow, wi th Cal i fornia Ag Solutions, said soil benefits from being covered with residues, from not being disturbed, from plant density, from con- tinual living and growing roots, and from animals grazing. Hesaidthereare increasedlevelsofben- eficial insects that are known to be associ- atedwith cover crops.

WOTUS Continued from Page 3

process was intimidating, time consum- ing, confusing and expensive.” Lauren Lurkins, director of natural and environmental resources at the Illinois Farm Bureau, said she often helps farm- ers as they seek to complywith “a complex network of environmental laws that touch their operations.” “(Farmers) reallywant something that is


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