After all the rain we've had recently, as you drive around you might wonder what that bright green crop is on some farm fields. More than likely, what you're seeing out the car window is a field planted with cover crops. Cover crops are plants such as annual ryegrass, winter rye, oats, clovers, radish and turnips that are planted either early in the growth stage of corn or after corn and soybean harvest. These plants keep living cover on the landscape until the following spring's planting of cash crops.
One downside of our current production of grain crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and barley is that these crops are annual crops, meaning that they need to be planted each year. This also means that many of the fields where these crops are grown will spend at least some of the year with no plant cover protecting the soil from water and wind erosion. According to researchers, a new perennial crop could solve those problems and provide farmers with grain and animal feed while also keeping the soil covered.
Imagine walking through area forests without having to push through thick bushes of buckthorn. Imagine hiking through a prairie without seeing any 6-foot-tall wild parsnip, an invasive plant that can give you severe rashes when bumped against.