Walking through Eddie Weinreich's fields and there are visible remnants of a corn crop. Small stalks still poke through a stand of rye. It is all part of his no-till and cover crop field trial at his Saline County farm.
He started by planting a three-way blend of annual rye grass, crimson clover and radishes. "I learned at the seminars that you cannot plant a single species and find good results," he says. "It takes more than one."
That is music to the ears of long-time no-till, cover crop guru David Brandt. Brandt plants up to a 10-way mix at his Ohio farm. "In 1978, we planted single species covers because we didn't know any different," Brandt says. "But we have learned our lesson. More is better." His mixes can include rye, hairy vetch, Austrian winter pea, radishes, buckwheat, phacelia, sunflower, oats, and Ethiopian cabbage.
What Weinreich is realizing is that each variety of cover crops offers a different benefit for the soil.
A tiling system
In his operation, Brandt finds annual rye and radishes help improve water infiltration. "This is what we use to loosen the soil on our farms and the farms we rent that we can't have underground drains put in," he explains.
As the plant grows, its roots create channels and crevices in the soil. This allows for both air and water movement. According to Ohio State University Extension researchers, found that the bare soil that has been tilled has the ability to hold 1.5 to 1.7 inches of water, while continuously vegetated soil has the ability to hold 4.2 to 4.5 inches of water.