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A cover crop is a plant used to improve soil health, control pests and diseases, reduce weeds and manage soil erosion. By improving the soil, you will improve the health and productivity of the soil, and the crops produced from it.
The 3 most common reasons used to promote cover crops are:Soil ImprovementSoil Nutrient ImprovementSoil Protection from Erosion
Soil Organic Matter Improvement Modern high tillage farming systems have depleted the original soil organic matter. By introducing a cover crop to the rotation, a grower can help arrest this decline and reverse this trend over time. For every 1% increase in SOM, the water holding capacity of the top 6” inches of soil is increased by 20,000 gallons or as much as 6%.
Soil Nutrient Improvement is usually associated with legumes in the cover crop fixing Nitrogen, but the addition of a cover crop releases other nutrients from the soil as the plant material breaks down as well.
Soil Protection from erosion by water is reduced with cover crops by both protecting the soil surface and the increased infiltration under the cover crop. Soil with a standing cover crop is less likely to be prone to wind erosion. Water Infiltration is increased by the pores left in the soil by the cover crop roots, and by increasing the time water is retained on the area by top growth slowing the water flow across area.
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