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Cover Crops the Benefits

Let’s Talk Cover Crops!

Cover crops are making a comeback in Illinois. Why? Because they do some amazing things!

Cover crops can protect soil from erosion by covering it in the fall and sometimes through the spring.

Nutrients that crops were unable to use can be scavenged by cover crops and released back into the soil for the next crop to use. Cereal grains, annual rye grass and radish are common cover crops for this purpose. Cover crops also provide protective vegetative cover for the soil which helps suppress winter annual weeds.

The additional organic matter cover crops provide will improve soil tilth, porosity and infiltration by providing the natural ‘glues’ that hold soil particles together.

Some cover crops— radish and annual ryegrass—may have the ability to suppress the soybean cyst nematode!

Similar to high-priced commercial nitrogen fertilizers, a legume cover crop could help “grow” some of your N needs the old fashioned way. In addition to providing nitrogen, you get benefits of erosion control and organic matter.

Compaction can be an issue. Annual ryegrass and radish can reduce compaction problems. Their root systems loosen the soil and improve infiltration of rain water.

Oats and Radishes drilled the end of August on part of a silage cut field.

 

 

 


Oats and Radishes drilled the end of August on part of a silage cut field.

Planting Tips

Cover crops can be seeded with ground equipment like drills, or broadcast equipment, or aerially applied to get the cover crop started early enough to achieve desired results.

Cover crops are ideal for planting after early-harvested crops like wheat, sweet corn, seed corn, and silage corn. To find out the proper time of year to inter-seed into mature corn and soybeans for ample growth, contact your local NRCS or SWCD office.

 

Radishes planted in this corn field protect the soil through the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

Radishes planted in this corn field protect the soil through the winter.

 


Cover Crop Benefits
• Reduce Soil Erosion
• Build Soil Tilth; Improve Soil Health
• Increase Soil Porosity & Infiltration
• Reduce Pests
• Improve Soil Microbiology
• Produce/ Scavenge Crop Nutrients
• Reduce Soil Compaction
• Increase Nutrient Recycling
• Help Winter Annual Weed Control
• Improve Yield Potential Over Time
• Protect Water Quality


Nutrient Scavengers?

Annual Ryegrass
Radish
Cereal Rye
Oats

Nitrogen Producers?

Crimson Clover
Hairy Vetch
Austrian Winter Pea

Nitrogen Producers & Scavengers?

Crimson Clover/Oats
Hairy Vetch/Annual Rye Grass Crimson Clover/Radish
Austrian Winter Pea/Radish


For updated Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program information go to:

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/il/programs/financial/

 

Cover Crop Resources

Roots from rye grass can reach as deep as 40 inches.

 

 

 

 

 

Roots from rye grass can reach as deep as 40 inches.

 

For more information or to apply for EQIP/CSP funding, contact your local NRCS Office or go to: www.il.nrcs.usda.gov

Helping people Help the Land

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A Printed Version of this fact sheet is available in Adobe Acrobat

Cover Crop the Benefits.pdf (PDF, 2,112 kb)