NCAT Regenerative Grazing Specialist
The Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association provides a lot of useful information on regenerative agriculture. Their recent paper provides more data on how some regenerative practices can improve water cycles through building soil health:
Improving Soil Health Takes Time
Many producers and researchers have found that cropping system practices that greatly reduce tillage and/or no-till (NT), include crop rotations (more than two crops), incorporate cover crops, and use livestock grazing. These can be effective tools for improving soil health and enhancing overall agro ecosystem benefits.
In 2021 the University of Manitoba, Plant Science department releases the 2020 Prairie Cover Crop Survey. The respondents were asked to identify the benefits that have been observed from using cover crops. The majority of farms (81%) reported seeing benefits from growing cover crops, with most farms (68%) reported improved soil health. Other common benefits observed by farms that responded were increased biodiversity (48%), increased soil organic matter (SOM) (46%), less erosion (41%) and increased water infiltration (38%).
Diverse crop rotation along with cover crops and grazing highly enhanced soil water infiltration at all sites (both short and long-term management) when compared with the corn-soybean rotation.
Read the full article here.The study concluded that at all long-term sites, diverse crop rotations, cover crops and livestock grazing showed highly improved SOM, water infiltration rate, and soil porosity. These findings suggest that improving overall soil health will require adoption of diversifying crop rotations, incorporating cover crops, and livestock integration in the system for more than three years. When we look at including cover crops in our farm practices one of the key decisions that needs to be made is what is the benefit or benefits we want. Once that has been decided, the plan has to include how long it might take to reach that goal. Goals of reduced fertilizer might take only one year with the inclusion of legumes as your cover crop. If your goal is to increase SOM, you may have to plan on implementing practices for a longer period of time before you reach that.