Cover crops have the potential to provide multiple benefits in a cropping system. They can be grazed, improve soil’s physical and biological properties, supply nutrients, suppress weeds, improve the availability of soil water, and break pest cycles. When first using cover crops, the species selected should be based on 1 primary goal. Often times there will be a number of secondary goals achieved as well.
Cover Crop species can be categorized by crop type:
cool season broadleaf, cool season grass, warm season broadleaf, warm season grass
(see above: Cover Crop Species and Properties table 1 2013)
When putting a species mix together, first off, what is the crop type of next years cash crop? The majority of the cover crop mix should be opposite of that crop type.
Second, what is your primary goal of the seeding? Next, what time of the year will the planting take place – this will determine if the mix will contain warm season crop types.
Use the Cover Crop JobSheet-340 above to put a mix together and determine the seeding rate of each species.
Some of the management goals for which farmers use cover crops include:
- Protecting soil from erosion
- Improving soil aggregate stability
- Adding active organic matter
- Breaking hardpan
- Fixing nitrogen
- Scavenging soil nitrogen