If you really want to hear something wild, my husband has been reading a book by a guy who was dealing with the problem of desertification which is a real problem around the world, where all agriculture and most wildlife grinds to a halt. The traditional method of dealing with desertification is to reduce the number of animals grazing, with the reasoning that overgrazing is causing the desertification. He saw how reducing grazing didn't seem to help the problem, it just made it worse, so he thought maybe increasing the number of grazing animals would help or was at least worth a try. Turns out that introducing more animals to feed on limited ground cover reverses desertification in some areas because off all that the animals contribute to soil health. I bet here it's the same principle on a smaller scale - they don't talk about animal population health in this video (except the worms ), but I bet it makes a difference to have all those critters hanging around even if it's counterintuitive and even if they eat some of the corn.
cmr, I liked the video but I need more info on the timing of planting the row crops. Can the cover crop be left in the field long enough to hatch out birds (end of May)? How late can you plant and still have enough season to get mature corn and beans?
"The wildlife and it's habitat cannot speak for itself. So we must and we will." Teddy Roosevelt
From what I can tell in watching the Under Cover Farmers video it appears that the multi species cover crops are often planted in the fall and flattened in April before being planted with a mono cash crop. Some cover cropp systems plant cover crops and leave it stand and grow right in with the cash crop. In some instances diverse cover crops are planted and left to grow one or more full annual cycles before being planted on top with a mono crop. I thought the same thing about the spring planting but it is certainly a better system than what is commonly used in today's industrial AG techniques with fields of mud or little cover for much of the year along with heavy herbicide and pesticide use. The cover crop system encourages more life and fertility in natural ways. The more sustainable systems such as these have a potential to also encourage more wildlife with some encouragement in that direction. I think that more wildlife conservation groups should back and encourage these more sustainable AG systems.
Yes these ideas are similar and some sustainable ag techniques also incorporate the use of herd animals, mainly cattle, to flatten the cover crops. The North Dakota Browns Ranch which was also mentioned in the Under Cover Farmers video relies heavily on the use of grazing animals to generate soil health and higher dollar yields of higher quality food per acre of sustainably managed ag acres. The Brown's Ranch has seen a significant increase in pheasant and wildlife numbers since adopting the sustainable AG techniques. See http://www.brownsranch.us/
The main drawback or complaint to the sustainable AG techniques are that they require more time and labor but those efforts are eventually offset by higher yields / profits and a more stable ag production system which is more drought tolerant, disease and insect resistant. These systems also produce higher quality foods, healthier soils, water, environment and wildlife populations.
It seems to me that the additional time and effort is worth it.