Soil cover or residue provides numerous benefits for cropland, rangeland, hayland, orchards, road ditches, and more – including:

  • Controlling Wind and Water Erosion – cover protects soil from wind and/or water as it moves across the soil surface.  It holds the soil in place along with valuable soil organic matter and nutrients.

  • Evaporation Rate Reduction – soil cover reduces soil evaporation rates, keeping more moisture available for plant use.

  • Soil Temperature Regulation – soil cover helps maintain a more moderate range of soil temperatures, keeping soil warmer in cold weather, and cooler in hot weather.  Like us, the soil food web functions best when soil temperatures are moderate.

  • Reducing Surface Compaction – rainfall on bare soils is one cause of soil compaction.  When rainfall hits cover instead of bare soil, much of the raindrop energy is dissipated.

  • Suppressing Weed Growth – soil cover limits the amount of sunlight available to weed seedlings.

  • Habitat – soil cover provides a protective habitat for the soil food web’s surface dwellers

 

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Tools

  • USDA-NRCS – Examples of residue cover under different tillage systems.

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