Cover crops indicate soil conditions

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

Cover crops of various types can provide many benefits for improving soil quality and cycling nutrients. Cover crops can also be good indicators of problem areas in fields. Since cover crops are sown to give complete ground cover, observation of growth and appearance of the cover crop can give insight into whether there is soil fertility or physical soil problems in a field. Good uniform growth indicates soil conditions are favorable.

When poor growth is observed in areas of the field, be sure to check those areas by soil sampling and testing those areas separately. There may be a soil pH or nutrient availability problem. Also, some probing or digging in those areas may reveal compaction problems. Once the cause of poor growth is found, corrective measures can be taken.

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