Cover crops and soil organic matter

Using cover crops can help farms build soil organic matter.

The reasons why farmers use cover crops are as varied as the number of species that can be used as a cover crop. Traditionally cover crops were used for erosion control but in the past few years’ cover crops have been used for other purposes.

 Building soil organic matter is one way that farmers are using cover crops.  Both below and above ground growth of cover crops have a positive effect on soil structure and living organisms in the soil. The following chart highlights those common cover crops grown in Michigan that are excellent, very good, and good at building soil organic matter.

Excellent

Very Good

Good

Cereal Rye

Annual Ryegrass

Oat

Sorghum-Sudan

Barley

Buckwheat

Sweet Clovers

Wheat

Rapeseed

Mustard

Cowpea

Radish

Field Pea

Berseem Clover

White Clover

Crimson Clover

Hairy Vetch

Red Clover

Chart information taken from Managing Cover Crops Profitably third edition, SARE Handbook Series 9.

For more information or to help decide what cover crop will be best for your farm contact Michigan State University Extension educators Christina Curell, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Paul Gross, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). More information can also be found at the Midwest Cover Council website.

Related Articles