Imagine it is a hot summer day and you are lying naked on the beach without any sunscreen. How long would you enjoy it? This is very similar for soil.
Cover crops add protection for the soil. They provide shade for the soil to keep water from evaporating and microorganisms from getting burned. Their cover prevents weed seeds from germinating.
Plants also protect soil from heavy rain. Every raindrop is like a tiny hammer hitting the soil. This leads to soil getting compacted over time. When the soil is compacted, water can’t infiltrate and it is more difficult for roots to grow down. The soil can become hard like concrete.
When very dry periods are followed by heavy rain, water can’t infiltrate and washes away on the surface, carrying with it valuable topsoil. This form of erosion can turn into floods.
Cover crops prevent this. Not only do they protect the soil from above, their roots also break open the soil, increasing water infiltration into the soil. As a result these soils can store much more water when it rains and become more resilient in a drought. Plants also protect soil from wind erosion with their bodies and roots.
Additionally, plants build biomass and what they drop builds soil above ground.
Covered and undisturbed soil is the basis of a regenerative farm. In nature, soil never stays uncovered for long, and we should do the same. Naked soil is similar to an open wound and should be avoided to promote soil health.
Cover crops are simple way to add protection for the soil.