The fall of 2013 was just the second year Hedrick has tried this approach, and he is still learning how to do deal with the huge amount of biomass the cover crop produces.

For instance, it took Russell a little longer than expected to plant soybeans in the cover crop because of the thick residue. He had to slow down to check seed placement, and it wound up taking two hours longer to plant the 36 acres than planned.

“We are able to plant right through the mat using a no-till coulters and  floating row cleaners,” he said. “They make a seven-inch wide path for seed placement. That ensures better seed germination in the cash crop.”

A possibility in the future: Hedrick could get some cattle grazing from the cover crop, and the cattle manure would improve the microbial life of the soil.

There is one other benefit of the cover crop that Hedrick points to, which though intangible is definitely real: “I am doing this on rented land, and the land owners are happier because they don’t see their soil washing away over the winter.”