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Cover Crop

cover crop








Grasses, legumes, forbs and other herbaceous plants established for seasonal cover and conservation.

How it works

Seasonal plantings of crops and grasses, like annual ryegrass, cereal rye, oats and winter wheat protect the ground from wind and water erosion during times when land is not adequately protected against soil erosion.

How it helps

  • Reduces soil erosion from wind and water
  • Adds organic matter to the soil, traps nutrients, and improves soil tilth
  • Reduces weed competition
  • Provides supplemental forage
  • Increases biodiversity

Planning ahead

  • Are adequate conservation measures installed above or near the cover crop to help prevent soil erosion?

Technical notes

  • Cover crops are most often recommended when low or fragile residue producing crops, such as wheat, are grown on erodible land.
  • Many crops can be used for cover crops. Cereal rye, barley and oats are common.
  • Avoid cover crops that attract potentially damaging insects.
  • Kill cover crops in the spring. Mowing or herbicide application is acceptable. Tillage is not recommended because it will bury residue. Terminating your cover crop at the right time can maximize moisture available for the next crop.


  • Control weeds in cover crops.
  • A cover crop is a short-term practice and is not expected to last after initial establishment.