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Cover Crops

Why Cover Crops?

Incorporating cover crops into your land practices can enrich the soil and water quality vastly and improve the production of your crops. You can plant cover crops in between rows of cash crops, or throughout an entire field that would otherwise go fallow for the off season to provide benefits to the land year-round. They are not meant to be harvested as a cash crop, but the services they can provide will yield high profits in the long term.

Benefits include…

  • Protection from wind and rain erosion
  • Produce and scavenge Nitrogen
  • Build soil quality
  • Suppress weeds
  • Recycle nutrients
  • Enhance wildlife habitat and pollination

Examples of Cover Crops

Legumes: peas, beans, clovers have beneficial bacteria that fix nitrogen in the soil

Grasses and grains: add plant diversity, soil stabilization, erosion control

Getting Started

What, when and where are important considerations when planting cover crops on your land. The type of cover crop depends on what benefit you are striving for, which also varies the timing of your crop rotation and planting schedule. You will also have different options of where your cover crops will thrive depending on what type of cash crop you are planting, for a Filbert orchard or for a fallow corn field?

When choosing your cover crops, consider…

  • Tillage/no tillage system — what are the available time windows for each crop? What are the characteristics and needs of the cash crop and cover crop?
  • Climate — affects the length of growing season for the cover crop.
  • Soil types/natural drainage/tile drainage — Do you need drought tolerant or wet tolerant cover crops?
  • Simple species or mixture — how complex do you want your cover to be? Picking one species is easier and more affordable, but a diverse mixture will produce more benefits quickly.

Conservation Planning

If you are ready to start a cover crop project on your land, visit our Conservation Planning page to find out how we can help!

More information about cover crops:

Contact Us

Our Ag planner can help you with any cover crop questions.

Becky and her family at fair with sheep.
Becky Pineda
Agriculture Conservation Planner - Pasture & Livestock
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