A cover crop is a plant that is used primarily to slow erosion, improve soil health, enhance water availability, smother weeds, help control pests and diseases, increase bio diversity and bring a host of other benefits to your farm. Cover crops have also been shown to increase crop yields, break through a plow pan, add organic matter to the soil, improve crop diversity on farms and attract pollinators. There is an increasing body of evidence that growing cover crops increases resilience in the face of erratic and increasingly intensive rainfall, as well as under drought conditions. Cover crops help when it doesn't rain, they help when it rains, and they help when it pours!
A cover crop is grass, legume, forb or other herbaceous plant that are established for seasonal cover and conservation purposes. The practice may be used to reduce wind or water erosion by establishing cover after a minimal residue crop. Cover crops are planted to use up excess nutrients in the soil profile, for weed suppression, to provide nutrients to the next crop, to increase carbon sequestration and improve soil structure. They are excellent tools for helping to improve soil health.
**FYI: COVER CROPS INCREASE YIELDS!!**
Some Benefits of doing Cover Crops:
1. Cut fertilizer costs
by contributing N to cash crops and by scavenging and mining soil nutrients.
2. Reduce the need for herbicides and other pesticides
Cover crops suppress weeds and reduce damage by disease, insects and nematodes.
3. Improve yields by enhancing soil health
Speeding infiltration of excess surface water
Relieving compaction and improving structure of over tilled soil
Adding organic matter that encourages beneficial soil microbial life
Enhancing nutrient cycling
4. Prevent soil erosion
quick growing cover crops hold soil in place,
reduce crusting and protect against erosion due to wind and rain.
5. Conserve soil moisture
Residue from killed cover crops increases water infiltration and reduces evaporation, resulting in less moisture stress during drought
6. Protect water quality
By slowing erosion and runoff, cover crops reduce non point source pollution caused by sediments, nutrients and agricultural chemicals.
7. Help safeguard personal health
By reducing reliance on agrichemicals for cash crop production, cover crops help protect the health of your family, neighbors and farm workers.
**You can increase the range of benefits by increasing the diversity of cover crops grown, the frequency of use between cash crops and the length of time that cover crops are growing in the field.**