At Zentveld’s Coffee, we look after our soil in lots of ways. One is by planting inter-row cover crops for biodiversity, soil health, and of course, our pollinating friends.
So what are cover crops and why do we love them?
At Zentveld’s Coffee Farm we plant mixed species cover crops to enhance biodiversity and soil fertility in between our coffee tree rows. Then we let them go to flower, attracting pollinators, and becoming a natural insectory too!
Naturally feeding the microbial life below the soil; planting cover crops aids soil health in many ways. For starters : Water infiltration (slowly filtering and holding capacity), storing carbon, holding nutrients and building healthier, aerated, well structured, and even cooler soils with all their biomass, greenery up there. And there’s more!🌱 Soil health! Through their relationship with microbial life and their deep root systems; the transfer of nutrients through the fancily termed rhizosphere will enhance the health of our coffee crop without the use of harmful chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Good for soil health, and our coffee trees, naturally.
Allowing the plants to go to flower, we attract beneficial insects, bringing biodiversity and becoming a welcoming home to wildlife above and below the soil.
For more in depth reading around cover crops, there is a great resource here from S.A.R.E going into full detail all the benefits of planting cover crops. CLICK HERE.
Now we are creating a healthy agro-ecosystem. Can we call ourselves Agro-ecologists? If we wanted a ‘label’ to work towards, thats a pretty cool one, I reckon.
Our Spring cover crops are planted!
Knowing we are up for another wet spring-summer, in November 2022 we planted our spring cover crops in more rows than ever before.
Radish, buckwheat, sunflower, wooly vetch, millet, clover, soybean, cow pea will feed the microbial life below, regulate the soil temperature & water holding capacity.
Established rows from winter plantings are now in the flowering stage, becoming a lively insectary and habitat for our welcome pollinating friends such as native and honey bees.
This is real regenerative agriculture, farming with nature and soil care in mind, always.
Which reminds me to give a plug for SoilCare. Wonderful Australian Organisation for farmers and keen, budding 👩🏻🌾👨🌾🧑🏽🌾 🌱soil carers, industry professionals and students who wish to learn, share and access current healthful soil management practices from around the world. “How to love our soil in practice”, I might say! Attending a field trip, You are absolutely certain to learn a few tips of the ‘how to’ look after our soil health in practice. Exchanging ideas and seeing real farming with nature action; with all its constraints and ‘making do’ – the innovations we farmers come up with limited dollars. There’s lots of sharing mistakes and learnings on the path to improving soil health. More significantly, we are willing to learn how to actively make our earth healthier for the generations to come. It’s up to us – Soil Carers we all need to be! 🌏😁
Attending the Australian Biological Farming Conference in December 22, hosted by SoilCare.org was an absolute highlight of the year. Inspiring, educative, and a true sense of belonging. Found our tribe of Soil lovers! The Speakers were remarkable and so generous with their time, outside of the lectures and workshops. Much sharings ’round the Expo and coffee breaks.
Special thanks to Bob Schaffer, of Soil Culture Consulting, who shared plenty about my favourite farming with nature activity – compost! Bob knows compost and knows coffee as a long time horticulturalist/ agronomist of natural, organic farming methods, based these days in Hawaii living on and consulting to various Hawaiian coffee farms. Jump out of my boots, I really did plead to the SoilCare Chief how amazing it would be if Bob could visit our farm .. and he did! Making time to do so, within hours of arriving in Australia; a day after his plane was delayed due to ‘his local’ volcano erupting. 😲 So we were both honored and grateful! Bob’s take home message? Get tough and trim those coffee trees down to hip height to regrow more productively on future ‘arms’ – newly formed horizontal branches. I think we surprised him with our growing compost piles, showing our true soil care colours. 👍🏻👩🏻🌾 🪱🐛
Farming with nature is farming that feels good. The benefits grow over time which does bring a smile to the Zentveld’s Coffee family and our visitors alike, knowing that our soil is being looked after for the future.
This will bring us to writing a future blog all about the native and honey bees who call our farm home – and the importance we both play to help each other. Well I think we both know, the importance of bees, but it’s nice to share all the same!