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Cover crop demonstration draws interested farmers from around state

A rainfall simulator demonstration in a field of cover crops in Clark County
Alejandro Figueroa
A rainfall simulator demonstration in a field of cover crops in Clark County

Cover crops are seen as a promising conservation practice for farmers. They can improve soil health and remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. They aren’t harvested like corn, soy or wheat. They are more of an input. Some seasons, instead of leaving a field bare, farmers will plant cover crops. In 2017, about 6% of Ohio Farmland had cover crops on it but that number is increasing.

On his farm in Clark County last month, Roger Wright held a cover crop demonstration.

Wright poured water through something called a rainfall simulator for the forty or so attendees. There were two soil samples. One was from a conventional agriculture field that had been tilled. And one sample from a field that used cover crops.

After the water drained through the soil , what was left behind was very different. The water that ran off the conventional sample was murky and full of eroded pieces of dirt. But the cover crop water was clear and there was less of it— most of it was absorbed into the soil.

Wright has used cover crops on his land for almost ten years.

“The soil is a living thing. There's millions upon millions of microorganisms in the soil," he said. "What we're trying to do is create a good environment for those microorganisms to flourish.”

Wright's cover crop mix on the demonstration field included a blend of millet, cabbage, radishes, clover, buckwheat, peas and rye.

Farmers from around the state showed up to the demonstration, which was backed by conservation non-profit The Tecumseh Land Trust and the Clark County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Wright said that he has seen more interest than ever in cover crops in the farming community. He said he thinks it's because of new carbon marketsthat are opening up in the United States.

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.