Keeping plants continuously growing on farmland through the winter protects and enriches the soil, improves water quality, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why Lisa Schulte Moore, a natural resource ecology and management professor at Iowa State University, is working to make the year-round covered ground a conventional practice.
“My vision is that when we drive around Iowa in December, we don’t see a single bare field,” she said.
While the use of cover crops is growing, it’s far from common. A new grant of up to $80 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will fund a project meant to spur more farmers to plant cover crops and perennial prairie grass through both direct payments and a demonstration of how harvested winter-hearty crops and grass can be processed into renewable natural gas.