At the end year as farmers work on the upcoming season’s budget, an area that should not be overlooked is the soil under their fields. Soil can have a positive or negative influence to a farm’s bottom line. The goal should be to improve the health of your soil so that there will be a positive increase to a farm’s earnings.

A practice that farmers can use to save money is cover crops. One of the benefits of cover crops is an increase in soil organic matter (SOM). One of the measurable benefits of organic matter is soil fertility. James Hooreman, Michigan State University Extension educator from The Ohio State University Extension, put together an estimate of the value of SOM, assuming there is 2,000,000 pounds soil in top six inches and one percent organic matter equals 20,000 pounds of soil.

Nutrients                    Pounds

Nitrogen                     1000

Phosphorous              100

Potassium                  100

Sulfur                          100

Carbon                        10,000

Depending on the price of fertilizer there could be a great cost saving on a farms fertilizer bill.                                                                 

There are also many benefits of organic matter that are difficult to put a monetary value on, such as an increase in the soil water holding capacity and an increase in the microbial population. One of the things that a farm manager can do to try to assess the hard to quantify benefits is to compare yields of fields to their organic matter percent.

Michigan State University Extension in partnership with the Soil and Water Conservation Society of America will be holding a webinar on Cover Crops and Soil Health on Nov. 20, 2015 1-2 p.m. Jim Hooreman, The Ohio State University Extension, the economic value that cover crops have to soil health. The cost for the program is $10. We have requested CCA credits for the program. Registration is available online. For more information on the webinar contact me at or Paul Gross,