Farmers have used cover cropping for thousands of years. But, when synthetic fertilizer exploded onto the scene in the early 20th century, cover crops fell out of favor.
Now we are starting to see an alarming rate of phosphorus entering our Great Lakes through run off from farms, causing algal blooms. Harmful algal blooms are overgrowths of algae in water. Some produce dangerous toxins in fresh or marine water but even nontoxic blooms hurt the environment and local economies.
Harmful algal blooms can:
-Produce extremely dangerous toxins that can sicken or kill people and animals
-Create dead zones in the water
-Raise treatment costs for drinking water
-Hurt industries that depend on clean water
Some phosphorus is needed, and good, especially for roots and flowers. Since phosphorus is in most fertilizers, moves slowly through some soil types, and isn't used in great amounts by plants, there is often an excess.
More and more farmers are opting to use cover crops in their farming practices as it is a natural way to balance the nutrients in the soil that are required for optimal plant growth.
Read the full story here: Farmers, Great Lakes benefit from cover crops by Great Lakes Echo.