The Rock Island Soil and Water Conservation District has scheduled two field days to showcase their Cover crop plots here in Rock Island County. Both plots highlight several combinations of cover crops used to reduce soil erosion and improve soil health.

The northern plot field day will be Wednesday, November 4th at Bob DePauw’s farm in Coe Township at 27004 – 122nd Ave N, Port Byron, IL. Bob’s plot includes Cereal rye, Oil Seed Radishes, Triticale, Winter and Spring Oats, and Annual Rye Grass planted at the end of August.

The southern plot field day with be Thursday November 5th at the Anderson Farm located ½ mile east of Sherrard High School or west of the junction of 176th Ave W and 63rd St. W. The plots include Cereal Rye, Annual Rye, Winter Oats, and Oil Seed Radish.

Both events with begin at 10 AM and last for one hour. Both are open to the public. There is no charge for the event and refreshments will be served. For more information and reservations call the Rock Island SWCD office at (309) 764-1486 ext. 3.

Cover crops lengthen the growing season of live plant material in the field. Many winter annual species like Winter Wheat, Cereal Rye and Annual Rye Grass maintaining live root systems under the soil surface during the winter months providing food for soil microbes to stay active. Idle crop fields, on the other hand, become biological deserts in which soil microbes reduce in population with limited food resources. Some covers like Cereal Rye and Annual Rye Grass also provide biological weed control in crop fields during the early portion of the growing season. This helps reduce the amount of pesticides that need to be used.

Additional benefits include, reduced soil erosion, enhancement of soil biology through increased microbial activity and the development of higher organic levels, and improved water quality from reduced run-off, along with the capture of un-used phosphorus and nitrogen making those nutrients available for the next cropping season.