North Central SARE Grantee-Produced Info Product
Sustainable Crop Rotations with Cover Crops
Cover crops offer many benefits for agriculture that include erosion control; reduced compaction and nutrient leaching; increased water infiltration; improved soil biodiversity; weed control and disease suppression; increased carbon sequestration and maximum nutrient recycling; improved air, soil, and water quality; and wildlife enhancement. Every cover crop species has its own niche and attributes for agricultural production.
Legume cover crops are commonly used for nitrogen contribution because of their inherent capacity to fix atmospheric N (inert gas) into usable form to be used by succeeding crops. Grass cover crops are widely used for soil erosion control, forages, improving soil structure and reducing compaction, carbon sequestration, recycling nutrients, and weed control. The Brassicas are good for reducing compaction, recycling nutrients, and weed control and disease suppression. Buckwheat is neither a legume nor grass but is a fast-growing summer cover crop and can be used for nutrient recycling (e.g. phosphorus), honeybees, and allelopathy.
This fact sheet produced by SARE Graduate Student Grant recipient, James Hoorman, provides information about specific attributes of different cover crops grown after each cash crop.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) GNC08-093, Recycling Nutrients with Cover Crops to Decrease Hypoxia/Eutrophication while Promoting Sustainable Crop Production.
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These products were developed with support from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed within these products do not necessarily reflect the view of the SARE program or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.