Living cover crops have immediate impacts on soil microbial community structure and function

Cover cropping is a widely promoted strategy to enhance soil health in agricultural systems. Despite a substantial body of literature demonstrating links between cover crops and soil biology, an important component of soil health, research evaluating how specific cover crop species influence soil microbial communities remains limited. This study examined the effects of eight fall-sown […]

Abiotic and Biotic Limitations to Nodulation by Leguminous Cover Crops in South Texas

Many farms use leguminous cover crops as a nutrient management strategy to reduce their need for nitrogen fertilizer. When they are effective, leguminous cover crops are a valuable tool for sustainable nutrient management. However, the symbiotic partnership between legumes and nitrogen fixing rhizobia is vulnerable to several abiotic and biotic stressors that reduce nitrogen fixation […]

Cover Crop Performance Evaluation in Field and Controlled Studies

Cover crops increase soil organic matter, reduce erosion, suppress weeds, forage for nutrients, and reduce fertilizer costs (Clark, 2007). Cover crop species vary greatly and provide varied benefits. Performance evaluation of cover crop species and mixtures is needed in Virginia.

Estimating Plant-Available Nitrogen Release From Cover Crops

Cover crops reduce soil erosion, improve soil tilth, and increase soil biological activity. Legume cover crops maintain nutrient balance in organic cropping systems because they are one of the few organic inputs that supply nitrogen (N) without phosphorus (P) or potassium (K). Cereal cover crops maintain vegetative cover in winter (to reduce soil erosion) and […]

Cover Cropping for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Flowering cover crops can fulfill their original purpose as a conservation practice while at the same time providing valuable forage for wild bees and beneficial insects. This added benefit can be significantly enhanced with some fine-tuning of management practices and thoughtful plant selection. This 16-page bulletin will help you use cover crops to encourage populations […]

Cover Crops for Sustainable Crop Rotations

Cover crops should be viewed as a long-term investment in improved soil health and farm management. They can begin to pay for themselves in the first year of use, or it may take a few years for them to lead to a net positive return. For a detailed analysis of when cover crops begin to […]

Long-term use of cover crops and no-till shift soil microbial community life strategies in agricultural soil

Reducing tillage and growing cover crops, widely recommended practices for boosting soil health, have major impacts on soil communities. Surprisingly little is known about their impacts on soil microbial functional diversity, and especially so in irrigated Mediterranean ecosystems. In long-term experimental plots at the West Side Research and Extension Center in California’s Central Valley, we […]

Cover Crops as an Agroecological Practice on Organic Vegetable Farms in Wisconsin, USA

Global agricultural and food systems face the challenge of feeding a growing world population in the face of finite and diminishing resources. To guide the redesign of agricultural systems, farmers and policymakers are increasingly turning to agroecology. Organic agriculture has historically integrated agroecological practices within its regulatory framework; however, questions remain as to the extent […]

Cover Crop Management on the Southern High Plains: Impacts on Crop Productivity and Soil Water Depletion

Agriculture throughout the Southern High Plains of the United States relies on supplemental irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer because of limited precipitation and high evapotranspiration rates. Unfortunately, extraction rates greatly exceed the recharge rate of the aquifer. This region is prone to soil erosion, so maintaining soil coverage is critical for protecting soil resources. Despite […]

Effects of Long-Term Cover Cropping on Weed Seedbanks

Cool-season cover crops have been shown to reduce soil erosion and nutrient discharge from maize (Zea mays L.) and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] production systems. However, their effects on long-term weed dynamics are not well-understood. We utilized five long-term research trials in Iowa to quantify germinable weed seedbank densities and compositions after 10+ years […]

Cover crops and weed suppression in the U.S. Midwest: A meta‐analysis and modeling study

In addition to soil health and conservation benefits, cover crops (CCs) may offer weed control in the midwestern United States, but individual studies report varying effects. We conducted a meta‐analysis of studies measuring weed biomass (WBIO) or density (WDEN) in paired CC and no‐cover treatments in corn (Zea mays L.)–soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr] rotations […]

Farmer’s Perspective: Why I Use Cover Crops

A practice that offers clear benefits to farmers, wildlife, and climate is cover cropping. Cover crops are non-commodity crops planted in between rows or during fallow periods to prevent chemical leaching, soil erosion, or provide nutrients to feed commodity crops. The National Wildlife Federation recently worked with a diverse group of stakeholders to develop a […]

Small Grain Production Manual Part 11 – Small Grain Cover Crops

A cover crop is a crop grown to improve the soil, repress weeds, or benefit subsequent crops grown in rotation. It is not intended to be harvested or grazed, although when small grains are used as cover crops a side benefit is that the timing of operations for cover cropping makes possible their use as […]

Value of Soil Health

Soil health is a combination of physical, chemical and biological properties impacting the function and productivity of the soil. Several of these properties directly affect your farm’s net return. Soil organic matter directly impacts water infiltration rates, soil aggregate stability and soil structure. It can also impact compaction, which can affect your farm’s net return. […]

Evaluation of Selected Cool Season Cover Crop Varieties in Northeast Missouri

Cover crops are beneficial to agricultural systems because they provide a living root in the soil year-round. They can improve soil nutrient and moisture content, reduce runoff, increase helpful soil biota, suppress and compete with weeds, control pests and offer many other benefits to farms. Management of cover crops can be influenced by regional and […]