Cover crops are plants that are grown to protect and enrich the soil and enhance ecosystem services. They are not grown to be harvested but are usually cut down when the plant starts to flower while the roots are left undisturbed. They are grouped into four main categories: grasses, legumes, brassicas and boradleaves. Depening on the type of type of plant used, they can provide a variety of benefits. But remember: there are no quick fixes. Cover crops, like other healthy soils practices, usually need a long-term investment to achieve significant results.
Planet Earth Observatory is conducting a multi-species cool season cover crop trial at the Huntington Ranch Experimental Garden. Click the button.
Source:Building Soils for Better Crops: Ecological Management for Healthy Soils, Chapter 10, Fred Magdoff, Harold van Es for SARE.
Cover crops can help the soil hold more moistuere, They also help prevent erosion and keep surface and groundwater clean.
Legumes, red clover and hairy vetch and others have a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria that can replace or reduce the use of chemical fertilizers on farms.
Raishdes, cereal rye, hairy vetch, and alfalfa are some of the strong rooted crops than that help aerate compacted soil.
Some cover crops have more biomass below than above ground, providing an important source of organic material necessary for healthy soil.
Cover crops can provide a habitat and food source or beneficial insects. They also provide a bridge for mychorrihizal fungi to survive between crop seasons.
Fast growing crops like buckwheat smother weeds. Buckwheat can also be intercropped with edibles.
Check out this video we made about the fava bean investigation we carried out for several years at The Huntington Ranch Experimental Garden and 8 other sites around L.A. County.
quoted in Building Soils for Better Health, SARE/UDSA
A quick reference to get you started. Provides a "'first step' in the cover crop planning process to help identify species that can meet the goals of the grower, and work within the constraints of the system," produced by NRCS.
An invaluable resource explainging what cover crops are and how they work. Free downlond, produced by Western SARE.
This online tool "summarizes recommended species, and related planting recommendations for NRCS clients – to enable implementation of a particular conservation practice that involves revegetation measures at a chosen location in California." NRCS.
Clear, helpful explanations. . See Chapter 10 for Cover Crops. Writen by Fred Magdoff and Hold Van Es for SARE/USDA.
Report on the latest cover crop research suitable for California growers. Field investigations you can trust.
Technical guides to the plants you might consier using as cover crops.
Free download version by Green Cover Seeds with contributions from soil microbiologist Christine Jones, farmers and others. By Green Cover Seeds.
One of the longest running experiments demonstrating the importance of biodiversity on ecosystem managment. A pleaure to watch.
A video by Western SARE laying out the pro's and con's for multi-species cover crop mixes
Fist in a series of four videos by soil health expert Dr. Christine Jones. Hosted by Green Cover Seeds.