Cover crops can provide a huge variety of advantages, reducing soil erosion, improving soil structure and drainage, capturing atmospheric carbon, and more!  We have had a remarkably warm and open winter in Nova Scotia this year and having a cover crop in place is imperative to protect your soil.  We have made some great strides with increasing the acres in cover crops over the past several years, but it is not time to rest on your laurels, there is always more that can be done.  Zooming out, we can use satellites to see what kind of ground cover we had in the Annapolis Valley in November.

The Sentinel-2 satellite mission is developed and operated by the European Space Agency and has a free and open data policy. The mission supports applications such as agricultural monitoring, water quality and land classification. The satellite mission covers most of the earth and revisits every 5 days with data captures at 10-60 meter resolution depending on the band wavelengths. There are 13 individual spectral bands including visual light (red, green and blue) but also red-edge and near infrared light. While this type of data may not be high enough resolution or frequency to readily identify in-field variability, it can provide a great snapshot of current conditions across a region.

The images below were captured on Nov. 9, 2022, and show the Annapolis Valley in “true” colour, in other words, atmospheric distortion is removed from the imagery to show the landscape as it would appear to our own eyes. It is clear to see the patchwork of farmland nestled between North and South Mountains. Fields with vegetation cover appear light green, while the reddish coloured soils of the region can be clearly seen on fields without vegetative cover.

These images are meant to help highlight the proportion of land that could potentially be covered by vegetation, such as a cover crop this winter. It is easy to see there is a significant portion of the land that appears to show bare or potentially unprotected soils going into the winter months.

Why should soils be covered over winter? A cover crop such as fall rye (also called winter rye) can usually be successfully seeded in the Annapolis Valley right up until the end of October, and it will provide sufficient vegetative growth to protect soils. Find more of our resources on cover crops here, and check out our YouTube videos for even more content on cover crops and more!

Images retrieved from Sentinel Hub EO Browser (https://apps.sentinel-hub.com/eo-browser/)

 

Written by Perennia’s Agriculture Technology Specialist Thomas Harrington