The usage of cover crops is on the rise across the prairies and one of the speakers at the Thanks for Farming Tour that's stopped in Swift Current right now has experienced the benefits.
Imperial Seed's Avery Shepherd joined the blooming trend seven years ago applying cover crops to his fields near Lloydminster and since he hasn't looked back.
"It allows you to keep your soil covered after harvest, which will help feed the soil biology, help backup compaction, help with water infiltration," he said. "Some people worry about it using water but if you're building a bigger bucket to store the water, that's kind of a non-issue, it's a moot point. You can feed livestock a higher plane of nutrition. Fix nitrogen for your soil and make your nitrogen-use efficiency a lot higher."
Before he began applying cover crops to his farming operation, his organic matter in his soil was between 2 and 3 percent but since the change, that numbers climbed to over 6 percent with some years seeing gains of nearly an entire per cent.
"I'm storing a lot more water in my soil, I'm getting the rain into my soil now, I've had sloughs dry up during heavy downpours, my sloughs don't fill up like they used to," he said. "Then I'm growing mainly forage crops for my bison on my farm, so I'm seeing healthier animals, great gains on my calves, and lower inputs."
His farm has seen under four inches of rain this year to date but because of the cover crops, he knows the rain that's fallen is being absorbed by his crops instead of running off.
"Just before I came out here I'd seeded some perennials on a field and it was 38 C and I was able to move some cover back and find moisture under that soil, where I'd go to a bare spot a few feet over and there was no moisture at all," he said. "My crops are heat-stressed but they're not as drought-stressed as my neighbour's crops that aren't doing these things."
Shepherd added that any producer looking to get into cover crops, should study the subject thoroughly and reach out to neighbouring farmers that are using cover crops and see what's worked for them.