In Drought-stricken Texas, Researchers are Finding Water Conservation Solutions in Cover Crops

In Drought-stricken Texas, Researchers are Finding Water Conservation Solutions in Cover Crops

News Type: Federal Source: Southern SARE
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LUBBOCK, Texas – In the Texas High Plains, a region where the water-depleting Ogallala Aquifer endangers productive agriculture, and hot, arid winds erode soils and rob them of nutrients, cover crops offer a useful option to livestock producers.

In a two-year graduate student study at Texas Tech University, funded through the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) program, winter cover crops – specifically rye – helped build healthy soils while preserving precious water for summer crops in minimally tilled forage-based grazing systems.

“The results help quell concerns from farmers that cover crops withdraw soil water to the detriment of the summer grazing crop, and more importantly don’t require any more irrigation than fields left fallow,” said Lisa Baxter, the graduate student who conducted the study, and is currently a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at University of Georgia. “It encourages producers to cover their fallow fields in the winter to cut down on erosion, stabilize the soil structure, and stem the loss of soil nutrients.”