Five Reasons to Plant a Cover Crop
1. Fix or Sequester Nitrogen
Grass species such as oats or rye will use up, or sequester, excess nitrogen left over in the soil. Once these plants start to break down they will release the nitrogen and make it available for the following year.
Legumes such as clover and peas have the ability to produce, or ‘fix’ nitrogen. Nitrogen fixation rates will vary from 20-80 lbs/acre.
2. Improved Soil texture
Plants such as radish have long tap roots that help break up crusting and compaction issues in your field. This also helps with drainage. Plants such as rye, oats, and peas will provide more top growth and fibrous roots. This bio-mass may be incorporated into the soil to increase organic matter.
3. Control of soil erosion
Wind, slope, and excess water can all play a part in causing soil loss. Planting a cover crop will help to control these issues while increasing organic matter.
4. Weed Control
Cover crops are a natural form of weed suppression. Thick cover crops will shade out unwanted weeds and capture carbon without increasing the ‘weed seed bank’.
5. Organic Matter
Green manure or cover crops slowly increase the amount of organic matter which encourages earthworms to flourish. Worms bore tunnels through the soil breaking up compaction and improving drainage. Improving their food supply helps to increase the population of these natural species that in turn improves soil quality.