Cover crops provide many benefits in conservation tillage systems. Many of the benefits are directly proportional to the biomass produced by the cover crops, which in turn is dependent on cover crop management. Management tips to enhance beneficial effects of cover crops:
- Maximize the cover crop’s growing season by planting as early as possible in the fall and by terminating as late as possible in the spring.
- Use plants that are adapted to your local weather conditions.
- Consider using cover crop mixtures, which could include grasses, brassicas and legumes.
- Consider applying nitrogen fertilizer to small-grain cover crops to promote biomass production, or include legumes in a mixture.
- Terminate cover crops a minimum of two weeks ahead of the anticipated cash crop planting date to allow soil moisture to recharge and to reduce problems with allelopathy, pests, tillage and planting.
- Become familiar with cover crops by planting on a small area to learn how to manage both the cover crop and the subsequent cash crop.