This story was co-published with The Weather Channel as part of Collateral , a series on climate, data and science. As millions of acres of American farmland sat under historic floodwaters this spring, a remarkable pattern began to emerge. Even among fields that sat side-by-side, with the same crops and the same soil type, researchers and farmers noticed that some bounced back faster than others. 2019 Year in Review What made the difference? The fields that were slow to drain and remained waterlogged longer had been farmed conventionally—tilled, left bare and unplanted over the winter. The fields that drained quickly and were ready for sowing hadn’t been tilled in years and had been planted every winter with cover crops, like rye and clover, which help control erosion, improve soil health and trap carbon in the soil. "There’s a pretty stark contrast," said William Salas, the interim CEO of Dagan Inc., a firm that specializes in geospatial data. As the disastrous 2019 farming season unfolded, Salas and his colleagues decided to analyze whether conservation methods, like planting cover crops and using "no-till" farming—which research shows can prevent erosion and improve the soil’s ability to filter water—had any effect on whether […]

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