What is Continuous Living Cover?
Farmers today are using many of the cropping systems we promote: pasture and forage crops for livestock; biomass energy crops; agroforestry practices that add trees and shrubs as part of the cropping system; and long-term (multi-year) rotations that incorporate perennial crops and winter annuals with corn, soybean, small grains, vegetables, and other summer annual crops. Crops in rotation are increasingly planted to overlap in the field – two species growing in the same field at the same time. Today, the combined use of summer row crops, winter annual crops, and perennial crops can keep many farm fields covered and rooted in place continuously throughout the year.
Green Lands Blue Waters is implementing five strategies for deploying continuous living cover in production agriculture. Learn more about the continuous living cover strategies that we work on:
Cover Crops are planted in the fall once the primary cash crop has been harvested, and killed the following spring before cash crop planting begins. Cover crops keep the soil covered during the winter, protecting it from wind and water erosion. They boost the productivity of the soil by adding nutrients and organic matter. Read more about our work with Cover Crops.
Perennial grasses and legumes are an important source of food for livestock including beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats and horses; whether fed as hay or used for pastures. Perennial forages are grown for on-farm feed or as a cash crop to be sold to outside buyers. Read more about our work with Perennial Forages.
In the Midwest, we don't typically think of trees as being a part of productive agriculture, but in fact they can be. Trees incorporated into row crop production act as filters to streams and groundwater, provide shade in the summer for grazing animals, and produce long-lived, high dollar crops. Read more about our work with Agroforestry.
Bioenergy is heat and electricity produced from burning plant material, as opposed to coal, natural gas, or other fossil fuels. Perennial grasses like switchgrass and miscanthus, and woody species like willow are examples of perennial biomass that can be planted in agricultural settings and harvested for bioenergy.
The varieties of wheat, corn, soybean, rice, oats, and other grains that we grow are almost all annuals. Scientists and researchers are working on varieties of grain crops like these that are perennials, so that someday, harvesting a good crop of grain doesn't mean tilling and planting every year. Read more about our work with Perennial Grains.