Green on the surface means living roots beneath

By Josh Kamps, agriculture educator, UW-Extension-Lafayette County

What is the value of living roots in the soil on your farm? Consider the following list of important soil functions living roots enhance:

  1. aggregate stability
  2. percent organic matter
  3. water infiltration
  4. production of soil microbe food
  5. nutrient retention

The green life we can easily see on the soil surface is an indicator of the living roots working hard below!

During mid-March 2020, two cover crop plots were planted in Lafayette Co. Three main questions were posed for this study looking at establishing cover crops in early spring ahead of grain production.

  1. What is the final grain yield?
  2. What is the result of soil and water quality?
  3. What is the level of pest pressure?

The financial implications of adopting all new farming practices must be carefully researched and examined along with the interactions to the cropping system.

The cover crops began growing once the seeds germinated on March 30. These seedling plants were fully emerged by April 15. Just 50 days following planting, Plot 1 and Plot 2 were well established and all crops were growing.

Regular scouting and monitoring the weather forecast will assist with the decision of when to terminate the cover crops through a post-emergent herbicide application.  The plots will be monitored monthly throughout the growing season and grain yield and quality measurements will be collected at harvest.  Science-based answers are the foundation of Extension outreach and the support and partnership between Extension and LASA will assure relevant research continues in Lafayette Co. and throughout the state.

Additional study materials and updated information for this study will be posted at Please direct questions to or call the Lafayette Co. Extension Office at (608) 732-6717.

Cover crop test plot 1

No-till corn/soybean rotation:

1- 112# winter cereal rye / 2- No cover crop

Cover Crop Test Plot 1

Cover crop test plot 2

Strip-till continuous corn

1-56# winter cereal rye / 2-32# oats and 6# radish / 3- 56# rye and 10# clover / 4- No cover crop

Cover Crop Test Plot 2
Cover Crop Test Plot 2