Cover Crops (NRCS 340)

A Best Management Practice available to all producers is the use of cover crops.  Black Hawk County Cover CropNutrient and soil management can be improved by including a natural ecosystem service such as cover crops.  There are many benefits of keeping the soil covered. Challenges include establishment and termination. Water quality benefits can be seen through reduced erosion and nitrates.

What is it: 

Cover crops are plants seeded into agricultural fields, either within or outside of the regular growing season, with the primary purpose of improving or maintaining ecosystem quality.

Where is it used: 

Production fields (grain or vegetable) which are subject to soil erosion due to slope or wind can benefit from a cover crop growing during non-cropping seasons.  A living plant will stabilize soil and prevent soil movement.
Fields with high nutrient levels (nitrogen and phosphorus are most critical) can benefit from cover crops planted which will absorb excess soluble nutrients and prevent movement off site.
Fields with low nutrient levels can also benefit from cover crops planted which will enhance soil organic matter and add nutrients naturally back to the soil.

Why install it: 

WHAT DO COVER CROPS DO FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

  • Enhance biodiversity
  • Increase soil infiltration, leading to less flooding, leaching, and runoff
  • Create wildlife habitat
  • Attract honey bees and beneficial insects

WHAT DO COVER CROPS DO FOR FARMERS?

  • ​Reduce erosion
  • Improve soil quality, through increases in:
    • Porosity (reduced compaction)
    • Soil organic matter
    • Water holding capacity
    • Beneficial microbes
    • Micro- and macro- invertebrates
  • Retain nutrients that would otherwise be lost
  • Add nitrogen through fixation (Leguminous cover crops)
  • Combat weeds
  • Break disease cycles
Who do I contact in Ohio: 

Extension https://extension.osu.edu/lao#county

SWCD http://www.ohioagriculture.gov/divs/SWC/SearchLocalSWCD.aspx

NRCS https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/oh/contact/local/

Sarah Noggle, The Ohio State University, (noogle.17@osu.edu)

Alan Sundermeier, The Ohio State University, (sundermeier.5@osu.edu)

Dr. Rafiq Islam, The Ohio State University, (islam.27@osu.edu)

James Hoorman, Ohio NRCS, (james.hoorman@oh.usda.gov)

Questions, concerns or suggestions for website content on this practice.https://agbmps.osu.edu/submit/email-general-questions-comments-or-concerns