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Cover crops are key to water quality

Thursday, October 12, 2023

TWF Posted by: TWF

In an effort to enhance water quality and preserve the region’s agricultural vitality, farmers in Northern Indiana are increasingly turning to cover crops. These hardworking plants are proving to be a game-changer for the environment and local agriculture, creating a buzz among farmers and environmentalists alike. The Watershed Foundation continues to partner with local farmers looking for ways to keep their soil healthy and water clean.

What are cover crops? Cover crops are different varieties of crops planted to cover the soil during the off-season, protecting the bare ground after harvest. Some of these cover crop varieties might include clover, rye and oats.

Traditionally, fields would lay bare after the harvest, leaving soil vulnerable to erosion and runoff, which can carry harmful pollutants into nearby water sources. However, cover crops act as a natural barrier, preventing soil erosion and nutrient runoff.

The benefits of cover crops extend far beyond soil protection. By preventing sediment and chemical runoff, these crops significantly improve water quality in local lakes and streams. This is particularly crucial in our area, where agriculture plays a pivotal role in the economy.

“The positive impact of cover crops on water quality is not only crucial for the environment but also for our communities that enjoy clean water and local businesses that rely on healthy lakes,” said Lyn Crighton, executive director of The Watershed Foundation. Improved water quality means healthier ecosystems, supporting aquatic life and biodiversity. Additionally, cleaner water reduces the costs associated with water treatment and ensures a safer supply for residents.

In addition to incentives and subsidies to promote the adoption of cover crops, The Watershed Foundation works with local farmers ready to make these important changes in their farming practices. These opportunities empower farmers to make environmentally conscious choices while ensuring the long-term sustainability of agriculture in the region.

“It’s heartening to see farmers and policymakers working together for the greater good. Northeast Indiana is setting an example for the nation on how sustainable agricultural practices can protect our environment,” Crighton added. “As local farmers continue to embrace cover crops, the region is not only safeguarding its agricultural future, but also ensuring that clean water remains a valuable resource for generations to come.”

“With each seed sown, farmers are contributing to a greener, more sustainable tomorrow, making our watershed a shining example of responsible agriculture in action,” Crighton said.

To learn more about soil testing opportunities available locally, check out these links:

Soil testing programs:

Statewide program for farmers: