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Since 1988, SARE has awarded numerous grants in every state and Island Protectorate aimed at advancing sustainable agriculture innovations. Click on your state to learn more about SARE's efforts in the Southern region.
Why Cover Crops?
Farmers Share Their Perspectives in SARE Video Series
"If somebody posed the question—would I farm without cover crops—I would say no," insists Kirk Brock, who grows corn, soybeans and peanuts on 1,000 acres in Monticello, Fla. His cover crop of choice, cereal rye, protects his hilly ground from erosion, and helps with weed control and moisture retention.
Brock is one of nearly two dozen farmers featured in SARE's Cover Crop Innovators video series. From row crops to diversified vegetables, these farmers explain how and why cover crops are an indispensable part of their rotations. Cover crops improve yields, protect the soil, retain moisture, increase organic matter and provide many other benefits, and acreage planted to cover crops is increasing across the country, according to a four-year national survey.
Stories from the Southern Region include:
Barry Martin plants peanuts, cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum, and uses strip till. Rye is his main cover crop, which he plants to retain moisture, build organic matter and help control the herbicide-resistant weed Palmer amaranth.
Cody Galligan runs a certified organic, highly diversified vegetable operation on seven acres. He grows cover crops of sorghum, sunn hemp and iron clay peas mainly in the summer off season to aid in weed and nematode suppression.
At Frog Song Organics in North Central Florida, John Bitter grows upwards of 80 crops in a year. Figuring out his rotations is the key to success as an organic farmer, and cover crops are an integral part of every rotation.
The Family Garden is a certified organic, diversified vegetable farm. Jordan Brown's cover crops typically include oats or rye in the fall through spring, and sunn hemp or sudangrass in the summer. Building soil organic matter is difficult in his climate and production system, so Brown uses cover crops every chance he can.
"If somebody posed the question - would I farm without cover crops - I would say no," says Kirk Brock, who grows peanuts, corn and soybeans on 1,000 acres in Northern Florida. Cereal rye has been Brock's go-to cover crop, but he is now experimenting with mixes that include ryegrass, clover and blue lupine.
Noah Shitama markets a diverse range of produce largely through a 220-member CSA and restaurant sales. "We're trying to establish as much diversity as possible throughout the farm," Shitama says, and cover crops are an integral part.
Stephen Fulford, a 3rd generation farmer, grows peanuts, soybeans and corn, and planted his first cover crop of cereal rye in 2009. One of the main benefits he has seen from cover crops is that the surface residue and improved soil quality allow for better moisture retention and protection against erosion.