There are many benefits to increasing biodiversity on your farm. The standard rotation of corn and beans is what most Midwestern’s row crop farmers stick to, and this model is hard to break because of the lack of availability of other viable markets. How do we break this system, and implement diversity on a farm that only harvests two types of crops?
Implement Cover Crops
One of the best ways to ensure that your farm has biodiversity is to implement cover crops into the system. Planting a cover crop mixture that has a wide range of root length can help with compaction and water infiltration. It also can attract other beneficial insects as well. Go walk through a field that hasn’t been farmed, and you’ll notice that there is a huge amount of insects flying around. That’s a major sign of increased biodiversity, increased pollination, and overall soil health!
Insect damage is real, and I don’t want to discount that at all. However, for every harmful insect, there are over 4,000 beneficial insects. You don’t have to spray every year for bugs! Think of all of the beneficial insects that you’re getting rid of if you’re in the routine of spraying insecticide every single year. There are years that it’s needed, but there are years that you don’t need it, and you’re doing more harm than good by killing all of the bugs that are helping you.
Easier said than done, I know. But if you start to implement livestock on your land, you open up a wide variety of plants that you can utilize and monetize on your farm. There are a couple of ways you can do this. The first way is to plant alfalfa, or other crops used in feed, for your livestock. This gives you a third crop on your farm by which you can make actual money off of, and see the benefits right away.
The other way to implement livestock on your farm is to graze cattle on your cover crop ground. This is another great way to implement biodiversity on your farm, all while increasing your soil health through grazing. Year after year, we see that our healthiest soil samples are taken from farms that implement livestock on their farms.
Improving your biodiversity helps to improve soil health by attracting and feeding different types of microbes, beneficial insects, and pollinators. Implementing diversity on your farm is one of the main principles or regenerative ag, and can also increase water infiltration through root penetration. If your soils only see one or two different types of plant roots, there won’t be a change in your water infiltration. If your soil sees root systems that go down into the soil at varying depths, you’ll see your water infiltration increase.