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Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures


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By Preston Sullivan

Published: 2003

Updated: 2003



16 pages

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Cover crops could be considered the backbone of any annual cropping system that seeks to be sustainable. In this publication we summarize the principal uses and benefits of cover crops and green manures. Brief descriptions and examples are provided for: winter cover crops; summer green manures; living mulches; catch crops; and some forage crops. To impart a sense for the importance of these practices in sustainable farming, we summarize the effect of cover crops and green manures on: organic matter and soil structure; nitrogen production; soil microbial activity; nutrient enhancement; rooting action; weed suppression; and soil and water conservation. Management issues addressed include: vegetation management; limitations of cover crops; use in crop rotations; use in pest management; and economics of cover crops. A selection of print and web resources are provided for further reading.

Table of Contents

Principal Uses of Cover Crops and Green Manures
    Winter Cover Crop
    Summer Green Manure Crop
    Living Mulch
    Catch Crop
    Forage Crop
Benefits of Cover Crops and Green Manures
    Organic Matter and Soil Structure
    Nitrogen Production
    Soil Microbial Activity
    Nutrient Enhancement
    Rooting Action
Weed Suppression
    Soil and Water Conservation
    Vegetation Management to Create a Cover Crop Mulch
    Limitations of Cover Crops
    Cover Crops in Rotation
    Pest Management Benefits of Cover Crops
    Economics of Cover Crops
    Publications in Print
    Web Resources
    Additional Information from ATTRA

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This page was last updated on: December 10, 2019