GREENWICH, N.Y. — With the wet spring and early summer that is upon us the planting of crops has been delayed. If you are unable to get crops planted and the ground is left fallow planting a cover crop on that field may be a good option to help protect the soil health of that field and maintain profits. The four principles to soil health are minimize disturbance, maximize soil cover, maximize biodiversity, and maximize living roots. Planting a cover crop helps to maximize living roots in the soil.
Benefits of Planting a Cover Crop:
- Improved nutrient cycling, reduced erosion and runoff, improved soil structure and increased organic matter.
- Soil moisture management by adding living roots to the soil that can use the excess water in a field.
- Grass cover crops that grow quickly can also act as a good weed control due to the competition and biomass that the cover crop provides.
- Cover crops can be used as a beneficial tool in pest management by acting as a trap crop and bringing in beneficial pests like beneficial predatory pests.
Cons to Not Planting a Cover Crop:
- Yield reductions in the Spring due to reduced nutrient cycling over the winter and reduced organic matter.
- Increased runoff and erosion due to not having those living roots holding the soil in place.
You can target more than one of these soil health issues at a time by planting a multi species cover crop including a grass and a legume. Some potential cover crop options are listed below.
|Oats (grass)||Winter kills after hard frost|
|Cereal Rye or Winter Wheat (grass)||Can last all winter and continue growing in the spring but needs to be terminated.|
|Radish or turnip (broadleaf)||Has a tap root that can be used to help compaction. Soil moisture management.|
|Field Pea or Clover (Broadleaf, legume)||Nitrogen fixing|
|Birdsfoot Trefoil (Broadleaf, Legume)||Nitrogen fixing|
|Buckwheat (grass)||Good pollinator|
If you would like more information on cover crops, contact the Washington County Soil and Water Conservation District at 518-692-9940 Ext.5
–Amber Luke, District Technician
Washington County SWCD
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