The adoption of cover crops is steadily increasing throughout the United States. Many industry experts see cover cropping as the way of the future. Conservationists point to cover crops as a necessary evolution in protecting soil and improving water quality. Leaving the soil undisturbed and keeping plant life growing for as many days out of the year as possible restores the natural cycles of the soil. Residue and roots create organic material in the soil, which serves as food to soil organisms.
Balansa Clover is re-seeding annual with moderate tolerance to salinity and the ability to withstand short periods of waterlogged soils. FiXatioN performs well in a wide range of soils and is well suited to pH values between 4.5 and 7.5. FiXatioN produces a large amount of forage in early Spring and fixes a significant quantity of nitrogen.
An annual legume native to the eastern Mediterranean region that resembles alfalfa. This cool season annual legume is unique in that it is not known to cause bloat in livestock. In pasture applications, berseem clover will not only improve the quality and yield of the forage, it can also create substantial quantities of nitrogen. Berseem clover has also been shown to have a synergistic relationship with alfalfa, improving the overall forage yields.
A fast growing summer annual. Used to attract beneficial insects, it has been known to support large hives and produce exceptional honey yields. Useful as a green manure smother crop, it germinates quickly, shading and cooling the soil. The biomass breaks down rapidly, making nutrients and minerals readily available to the subsequent crop. Its quick decay also improves the condition and moisture-holding capacity of the soil.
Annual ryegrass is rapidly growing in popularity for use as a cover crop in the Midwestern states. It has long been favored as a winter-active companion crop in the Southern U.S., and for seeding into dormant warm-season forages. Lonestar, an improved diploid annual ryegrass variety, was bred for excellent cold tolerance, high level of disease resistance, seedling vigor and rapid forage growth.
One of the best species for delayed planting situations – late fall, early winter. Germinating and growing rapidly in cold weather, it provides winter soil protection. Cereal rye can also be used for spring forage production, however care should be given when used with dairy livestock as it may impart an off-flavor to milk. It exhibits an extensive root system and has an allelopathic effect on some weed species. It is adapted to a wide range of soil types and is the most drought tolerant cereal.
Hairy vetch is a good cover crop choice where spring forage production and nitrogen contribution are desired. Fall-planted hairy vetch may not have evident top growth, but root development continues over the winter. Growth accelerates in the spring when plants can reach 12 feet in length. This viny growth can be very beneficial, as it smothers weeds and is a great nitrogen contributor; however, it can also be a challenge, as it is sometimes difficult to manage with hay cutting equipment.
Winter peas, also known as “field peas”, are a cool-season annual legume showing good nitrogen fixing properties. Winter peas are low growing, viny, and have been shown to fix over 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year. The plants have 2 to 4 foot long, thin, hollow, stems and purple or reddish-pink flowers. As their name would suggest, winter peas have great winter hardiness and can be successfully grown wherever grain is grown.
When Driller’s tap root hits a soil compaction zone, it “bio-drills” deeper into the soil, breaking up compaction. Breaking up the compaction zone improves water infiltration and improves the movement of air and nutrients deep in the soil. Driller daikon radish will winterkill when temperatures drop down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The residue that remains helps shade out winter annual weeds and releases the nutrients it has sequestered to the following crop.
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