Benefitting from buffers and diversity
Level of Expertise: Introductory/Overview,
Topics: Biodiversity, Pollinators, Buffer Strips,
All types of farms, fields, and pastures can benefit from plant diversity. Diversity can break pest and disease cycles as well as reduce weed pressure. In row crop fields, it typically is not effective to grow more than one cash crop together at a time for harvest and production reasons; however there are other ways of adding diversity. Some farmers find that adding a third crop to the typical corn and soybean rotation actually helps production. Other farmers get extra diversity from using cover crops at times when their cash crop is not growing. Some farmers are even experimenting with overseeding cover crops into corn or other crops early in the growing season. Field borders, often marginally productive, also present good opportunities to add diverse perennial plants to row-crop farms. In perennial pastures, adding legumes to grass pastures can increase forage production and quality. Most grass pastures contain cool season grasses like fescue, but some graziers like to add native, warm-season pastures, which can provide forage in the hot summer months. Where perennial pastures are not an option, it can be really helpful to have grazing opportunities with cover crops, potentially combined with native grass buffer strips on contours through the field or planted on field borders.