A project kick-off field day is planned for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Mark and Brenna Wulfkuhle Farm Headquarters at 198 N. 1250 Road, Berryton.
A short presentation on the benefits of cover crops and an overview of the project will be followed by a tour of established cover crop plots.
They’re not the kind of cocktails one would drink, but they may improve the quality of drinking water.
“We call them conservation cocktails,” said Jim Weaver, program coordinator with the Douglas County Conservation District.
The district recently received a $14,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to evaluate the benefits of planting cover crops on fallow cropland.
The cover crops are a mixture, or “conservation cocktail,” of up to 11 different plant seeds, such as radishes, turnips and cabbage. They are touted as a way to improve the fields, boosting profits for farmers while helping the environment.
How? Cover crops improve the soil by reducing compaction and erosion and by adding organic matter to fields, Weaver said. This helps improve fertility and moisture utilization. This in turn, hopefully, will reduce the need for fertilizers and herbicides, thus helping the environment.
The cover crops aren’t harvested; they die during winter freezes.
The strategy has been used since ancient times to help increase yields. The only difference now is that the cover crops are getting more refined and the environmental payoff is becoming clearer, proponents say.
Ten plots, of several acres each, will be planted around Douglas County. The plots will be evaluated for several soil health elements before each cover crop is planted, and then again after the crop is terminated.