Looking for Cover Crop Resources?
There are a variety of resources here in Minnesota that can connect landowners who are interested in cover crops with other producers and information about soil health.
Click Here to go to the Resources page to learn about what resources are available to you.
Basics of Cover Crops
Cover crops offer a variety of benefits for producers to explore such as: Weed suppression, fix nitrogen, reduce compaction, and build topsoil.
Ultimately all of these benefits in combination can build yield and increase economic potential for the whole rotation.
- Roots from cover crops help break through compacted soil and restore soil structure.
- Pathways for air and water are essential for increasing the soils ability retain or drain water.
- Growing roots are crucial for sustaining microorganisms that hold soil together.
- Cover crops can provide organic nitrogen for following crops.
Sequester residual nitrogen for their own needs.
- A fast-growing cover crop can provide direct competition with weeds for space, light, and nutirents.
- Some cover crops have chemicals in their roots which act like herbicides that can cause damage to the roots of weeds.
- Cereal Rye is a proven tool against Water Hemp, and Giant Ragweed.
- Protective cover year-round can protect productive topsoil from excessive rain, wind, or sun.
Provide plant material to soil organisms and increase decomposition.
Choosing Cover Crops
When selecting a cover crop it is important to make sure that it provides benefits that support your farming goals.
- Grasses tend to have extensive root systems, establish rapidly, and can help reduce erosion. They also produce residue which adds organic matter to the soil.
- Cover crops include annual cereals, annual/perennial forages, and warm-season grasses.
- Legumes fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and add it to the soil. They can provide up to 100 lbs/ac of N for the next crop.
- For later planting (July-August) a legume such as Red Clover can be considered.
- Cover crops include hairy vetch, field peas, and a variety of clovers.
- Provide excellent weed control and nitrogen scavenging. Tap roots break up dense soil layers, breaking up compaction.
- Cover crops include mustard, rapeseed, turnip, and forage radish.
For preventive planting any broadcast spreader can work well. Planting cover corps can be done using a drill, broadcast, or aerial application (Seeding rates will vary for aerial application).