Cover Crops

Five soil principles guide ATTRA’s practices to build soil health and subsequent farm productivity: reducing disturbance, keeping the soil covered, maintaining living roots year-round, increasing diversity, and incorporating livestock grazing. Of these five principles, cover cropping addresses at least four of them (and all five if you use cover crops for grazing livestock) and is thus a crucial practice farmers and graziers can use on their farms and ranches.

Cover cropsideally a mixture of annual grasses, legumes, and forbs grown between cash cropsare known to reduce erosion, increase soil organic matter content, capture and recycle nutrients in the soil, increase biodiversity, suppress weeds and pests, manage soil moisture, and provide highquality forage for livestock. ATTRA’s practical resources will help farmers choose the best cover crop species by function, planting methods, and termination options. 

A diverse cover crop of more than a dozen species of grasses, legumes, and mustards

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Staff Expert

Lee Rinehart

Lee Rinehart

Elderberry in a hedgerow
A cow and calf grazing on a summer cover crop of pearl millet.
Cereal rye cover crop
five photos comparing various stages of crop rotation.
A farmscape in a hot climate
A honey bee visits a partridge pea flower