There are numerous studies that help us understand the benefits of cover crops utilized in agricultural production systems. While trial data is still being gathered, we have already seen solid benefits. Some of those cover crop benefits are outlined below.

  1. SEQUESTER NUTRIENTS: Cover crops can aggressively scavenge and cycle nutrients from deep within the soil profile making them available in the root zone of subsequent crops,  improving yields and reducing runoff into sensitive watersheds.
  2. REDUCE SOIL EROSION: Extensive root systems cling to the top layer of soil creating an interior shield from erosion while top growth minimizes “splash” and wind erosion.
  3. CREATE A NITROGEN SOURCE: Legumes produce additional Nitrogen (N) by fixing atmospheric Nitrogen in the soil.
  4. BREAK UP SOIL COMPACTION: Deep burrowing roots break through compacted soil to create pore space improving aeration, water movement and helping soil organisms flourish.
  5. PROVIDE WEED CONTROL: Cover crops create competition for winter annuals and other weeds by shading them out, and preventing them from robbing valuable moisture and nutrients from subsequent cash crops with the potential of lowering herbicide requirements per acre.
  6. PROVIDE PEST CONTROL: Most cover crops that suppress weeds during the winter months can consequently reduce nematode populations. Some cover crop  options deplete nematode by causing premature egg hatching. Other species  provide control by eliminating winter annuals that have historically provided a refuge for nematode populations. Still other cover crops contain chemicals that naturally fumigate at risk soil environments.
  7. GENERATE ADDITIONAL FORAGE: Certain cover crop species have the added benefit of being dual-purpose, meaning they provide both the benefit of a soil cover while providing a valuable forage source for livestock.
  8. ADD HABITAT FOR WILDLIFE & ESSENTIAL POLLINATORS: Fall, winter and spring cover crops create environments crucial for wildlife protection and nesting. Additionally the biodiversity created by many cover crop systems have positive effects on native pollinators.
  9. BUILD ORGANIC MATERIAL: As cover crops grow, die and break down, they add organic humus to soil and feed soil microbes, improving soil tilth, soil quality and water holding capacity.
  10. INCREASE SOIL STRUCTURE: Active plant roots contain mycorrhizal hyphae which form soil aggregates that act like a net capturing organic matter and soil particles. Aggregate stability builds soil structure that leads to better nutrient cycling and better movement of water and oxygen.
  11. INCREASE SOIL MOISTURE CAPACITY: By converting the suns energy into growing biomass and the opportunity for organic matter, runoff and evaporation are reduced while increasing soil moisture.
  12. CREATE FINANCIAL VALUE: The above benefits create the opportunity for better yield potential in cash crops, lower input costs, and ultimately higher land values. In addition many states and counties offer cost-sharing initiatives for this important practice.

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