Choosing a Cover Crop
If you examine a Cover Crop Seed Supplier list you will see that there is a wide variety of cover crops available; some exotic, some more common. Each cover crop has its own attributes, some are better suited for particular uses than others. Consider the following when making your selection:
What are your goals with that cover crop? eg. erosion protection, grazing, nitrogen producion.
- What niche or growth opportunity do you have? eg. after wheat, before a late planted crop, etc.
- What kind of growth habit is needed?
- When is the growth required? eg lots of vigorous late fall growth or rapid early spring growth? Is deep rooting important?
Do you need the cover crop to survive overwinter? Would it suit your cropping schedule and soil type if the cover crop winter killed and dried out by spring?
- Will the cover crop become a weed concern?
- How is it controlled?
- What options are there for control?
Sensitivity to Herbicides
How sensitive is the cover crop to herbicide residues from other crops in the rotation?
Seed cost and availability?
What is the best way to plant the seed?
Do you need different equipment?How easy is it to establish? Will it create a solid cover? (Good establishment is critical to the success of the cover crop).
Is it a nitrogen producer or does the cover crop require nitrogen to grow well? Does it scavenge well for nitrogen?
What crop family is the cover crop in?
Is it related to other crops in the rotation?
Are there pest concerns? Is the cover crop a host or a non-host?
Families Of Crops
Family (Common Name) : Examples
- Cruciferae (mustard) : Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, rutabaga, brussels sprouts, rapeseed, canola, oilseed radish
- Gramineae (grass) : Wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn
- Leguminosae (pea) : Snapbean, pea, alfalfa, clover, soybeans
- Solanaceae (nightshade) : Tomato, potato, eggplant, pepper
- Cucurbitaceae (melon) : Pumpkin, squash, cucumber, melons
- Liliaceae (lily) : Asparagus
- Umbelliferae (parsley) : Carrot, parsnip, celery
- Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot) : Beet, spinach, chard
- Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis) : Leeks, onion, garlic, chives, shallots
- Polygonaceae (smartweed): buckwheat, rhubarb
- Linaceae: flax
- Compositae/Asteraceae (Aster): sunflower, lettuce
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