Man: Steve, just going back to that oats/vetch example where we’re thinking now that we’ll take the bulk of the biomass off as hay. So when you look at a cover crop the reason why you grow it is, one, you are putting bulk organic matter back in the soil from the tops, from the root system that are doing all the root system stuff and building the structure and you’ve got the root exudates.
What do you reckon you are losing if you take it off silage or hay? This is what the growers are really interested in: Can I effectively turn my cover crop into a cash crop and use it that way. What do you reckon you’d lose if you took that sort of bulk organic matter from the top off, still had the stubble and the root system and the exudates?
Steve: What I understand is organic matter increase primarily does come from the roots, not so much from the top biomass that breaks down. That’s what I understand. I’ve heard it multiple times. So you’re still getting a majority of the percentage of your organic matter production from the roots. So that’s good.
Now you could say if it’s totally for organic matter, what you take off is no longer there. Now if you have cattle grazing it, it comes out their back ends and goes right back. It’s a net positive in a way because of all the manure there’s very little nutrients leave the land other than the cattle themselves, the meat they put on. That’s the only nutrients essentially leave the land if you want to say it that way. Or if you bring it back as manure, which some people do, or compost or whatever. So if your objective is to provide feed, forage, whatever for cattle, you’re meeting an objective and that’s valid, of course.
But then again, it comes back to the question is, what is best for my overall objectives for this farm? And that comes down to farmer to farmer decision. I would say, hey, if you have it there, I wouldn’t buy, I don’t think I would buy feed from a neighbour if I can grow it myself and bring it in and use it. Now if it’s a really, really bad field and you want to bring it back to life quicker, maybe on that field I’ll just leave it on. So there’s compromise all around. You got to decide. This is agriculture. You know, you have to make these decisions all the time.
This is a clip from “Walk the Talk” with Steve Groff: Cover Cropping filming available for Farming Secrets Members.