116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When a farmer plants a crop to provide protection for the soil in between cash crops, those are called cover crops.
Cover crops provide a root structure to hold the soil in place to prevent erosion, which occurs when topsoil is gradually lost due to wind or water. In Iowa, grasses such as rye, are often used for cover crops due to their quick germination (the sprouting of a seed). Other popular cover crops in Iowa include radishes, turnips and clover.
For this activity, you will create a clover crop monster, which will help you see how quickly grasses germinate and provide ground cover.
- Nylon sock or stocking
- Grass seed
- Potting soil
- Elastic bands
- Permanent markers or googly eyes and glue
- Small cup and plate
- In a cup, mix the soil and seed together. For the seed to grow it will need good soil contact so make sure they are well mixed together.
- Use the cup to fill the nylon sock or stocking with your soil/seed mixture.
- Use the elastic bands to tie off the sock/stocking.
- If you have multiple bands, you can use them to create multiple segments for your monster (like a caterpillar or give it ears).
- Give your monster features like eyes and a mouth using permanent markers or googly eyes and glue.
- Place your monster in a cup or dish.
- Water your monster and make sure to keep it damp. Within 3-4 days you should see hair sprouting. Place your monster in sunlight, keep it damp, and see how much it grows.
- How many days did it take when you first saw grass sprouting outside of the sock/stocking?
- How long did it take the stocking to be covered in grass?
- Farmers plant cover crops on their fields to hold the soil in place in between crops. Look at your monster. Does it feel like the soil is being held in place?
- Have you ever wondered why we plant grass in our yards, or along the sides of our roads?
- When topsoil is lost to erosion, where does it go?
This activity was adapted from Cover Crop Monsters from Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation. To get your child involved in fun learning opportunities, check out our 4-H Clubs and more by visiting extension.iastate.edu/linn/4h.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Linn County helps build a strong Iowa by engaging Iowans in research, education, and extension experiences to address current and emerging real-life challenges. Visit Linn County Extension Office’s website at extension.iastate.edu/linn.
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