The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) wants to make Nebraska cropland healthier.
The idea being, the healthier the soil, the more efficient and productive corn, soybeans, and other crops can be.
NRCS is looking for 12 farms across the state to be demonstration sites, according to Aaron Hird, state soil health specialist.
“We can learn a lot on the ground and showcase cover crops and soil health management systems locally with field days and trainings,” Hird tells Nebraska Radio Network, “and gain a lot more ground with farmers than with our own staff and other partners by having local examples.”
The goal is to use different cover crops throughout the state to see which works best and where. Those plants break up the soil for the cash crops and have above ground benefits as well.
“Plant material on the soil surface is really useful for feeding the soil ecosystem,” Hird says. “There are a lot of little critters – bugs, bacteria, and mold – that feed on the diversity of plant residue grown in a cover crop.”
Farmers can apply to become a demonstration site until June 17, and may be paid up to $15,000 a year to take part.
Hird says more information on the initiative is available through NRCS at USDA Service Centers.