Only a fraction of conventional row crop farmers grow cover crops after harvest, but a new global analysis from the University of Illinois shows the practice can boost soil microbial abundance by 27 percent.
The result adds to cover crops’ reputation for nitrogen loss reduction, weed suppression, erosion control, and more. Although soil microbial abundance is less easily observed, it is a hugely important metric in estimating soil health.
“A lot of ecological services are done by the soil microbiome, including nutrient cycling. It’s really important to understand how it functions and how agriculture can form a healthier soil microbiome,” says Nakian Kim, doctoral student in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois and lead author on a new paper in Soil Biology and Biochemistry.
The article, “Do cover crops benefit soil microbiome? A meta-analysis of current research,” is published in Soil Biology and Biochemistry. Authors include Kim Villamil, Maria Zabaloy, and Kaiyu Guan.
The research was supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
For more read the University of Illinois article.