What does each species bring to the blend? Lee Holcomb, NRCS District Conservationist for Catawba County, N.C., who helped Hedrick choose the elements, explains:

--Cereal rye establishes quickly in the field and is very winter hardy, and it can inhibit weed seed germination in the following crop.

--The oats are not as winter hardy, but they provide a good root system and plenty of organic material.

--Triticale is not as winter hardy as rye or oats but it serves some of the same purposes, such as scavenging excess nutrients and providing an abundance of organic material. And by including three different small grains, Hedrick increases his chances that at least one will survive no matter what the conditions.

--Crimson clover is very effective in producing nitrogen. Also, it can overwinter better than some other legumes. “It is really growing now,” Holcomb said when Southeast Farm Press visited the farm on March 26. “Hedrick may be able to reduce some of his nitrogen application on the next cash crop.”

--The Daikon radish has a huge taproot that helps break up the compaction layers created by heavy equipment and scavenges nitrogen and sulfur leftover from the previous cash crop, said Holcomb. “It acts as a form of biological tillage.”