Cover Crops: Choosing a Cover Crop
Table of Contents
- Choosing a Cover Crop
- Growth Habits
- Control Options
- Sensitivity to Herbicides
- Nutrient Management
- Pest Management
- Families of Crops
- Related Links
Choosing a Cover Crop
If you examine the Cover Crop Seed Supplier list you will see that there is a wide variety of cover crops available; some exotic, some more common. Each cover crop has its own attributes, some are better suited for particular uses than others. Consider the following when making your selection:
What are your goals with that cover crop? eg. erosion protection, grazing, nitrogen producion.
- What niche or growth opportunity do you have? eg. after wheat, before a late planted crop, etc.
- What kind of growth habit is needed?
- When is the growth required? eg lots of vigorous late fall growth or rapid early spring growth? Is deep rooting important?
- Do you need the cover crop to survive overwinter? Would it suit your cropping schedule and soil type if the cover crop winter killed and dried out by spring?
- Will the cover crop become a weed concern?
- How is it controlled?
- What options are there for control?
Sensitivity to Herbicides
- Annual Rye-Grass and Clover Sensitivity to Soil Applied Corn Herbicides
- How sensitive is the cover crop to herbicide residues from other crops in the rotation?
- Seed cost and availability?
- What is the best way to plant the seed?
- Do you need different equipment?
- How easy is it to establish? Will it create a solid cover? (Good establishment is critical to the success of the cover crop).
- Is it a nitrogen producer or does the cover crop require nitrogen to grow well? Does it scavenge well for nitrogen?
- What crop family is the cover crop in?
Is it related to other crops in the rotation?
Are there pest concerns? Is the cover crop a host or a non-host?
Families of Crops
Family (Common Name) : Examples
- Cruciferae (mustard) : Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, rutabaga, brussels sprouts, rapeseed, canola, oilseed radish
- Gramineae (grass) : Wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn
- Leguminosae (pea) : Snapbean, pea, alfalfa, clover, soybeans
- Solanaceae (nightshade) : Tomato, potato, eggplant, pepper
- Cucurbitaceae (melon) : Pumpkin, squash, cucumber, melons
- Liliaceae (lily) : Asparagus
- Umbelliferae (parsley) : Carrot, parsnip, celery
- Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot) : Beet, spinach, chard
- Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis) : Leeks, onion, garlic, chives, shallots
- Polygonaceae (smartweed): buckwheat, rhubarb
- Linaceae: flax
- Compositae/Asteraceae (Aster): sunflower, lettuce
Figure 1. Cover Crop of Phacelia
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