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Cover Crop Seeds

Cover crops have been used for centuries as an important aspect of gardening and farming. However, in the last few years there have been increased interest in cover crops. The appeal of cover crops is their use to improve soils and to add organic matter to the soil. In addition cover crops can also assist with the nitrogen levels as well as break up compaction that takes places through root penetration. Cover crops suppress weed growth also and stop erosion of ground that is not currently being used. Some of the best cover crops, and the ones we sell at ECS Forage Turf Seed are usually either grasses, legumes, buckwheat or a mixture of these. As an added benefit our cover crop seeds are pre-inoculated with nitrogen fixing Rhizobium bacteria to make sure that bacteria levels in your soil are healthy.

Cover Crops Soil Preparation

Soil preparation for cover crops is fairly simple, which is another added benefit of using cover crops. Basically soil needs to be worked up and cleaned of rocks and other debris. You should take care to plant according to your region. Certain crops will require differing planting time. You can contact one of the knowledgeable representatives at ECS Forage Turf Seed to double check best planting times for the cover crops you need.

Care of Cover Crops

One of the appealing aspects of cover crops is that they are relatively easy to care for. However, cover crops do require some care and attention. Some cover crops may require additional nurse crops to be planted along with them. If you need advice on which cover crops will be best for your needs please contact one of our representatives for further assistance.

Benefits of Cover Crops

The bio-mass or as some refer to it as “green manure” is the nutrients and other bio elements that the cover crop will return to the soil as it begins to break down. You can tell if your cover crop will be replenishing your soil by how much top growth can be seen during the growing season. A great amount of top growth generally indicates a greater amount of “green manure.” For more advice on seeds in Colorado contact us today. seeds colorado

Below is a list of benefits to using a cover crop.

Weed Control – Cover Crops can assist with weed suppression through competition, smothering, or alleopathic effects.

Recycling of Nutrients – Cover Crops can scavenge available nutrients, convert the nutrients to biomass, and then when incorporated back into the soil, made available to the following crop. In addition to preventing the loss of nutrients to leaching, Cover Crops can recapture nutrients from the lower soil profile, and return them to the upper soil profile.

Nitrogen Capture – Legume Cover Crops, by hosting beneficial rhizobium on their roots are able to capture atmospheric nitrogen , and use the Nitrogen to fuel their own growth. As the legume biomass is returned to the soil, this nitrogen is made available to following crops. Legumes can generate up to 200 lbs of N/acre/year.

Soil Organic Matter – Cover Crops can return substantial levels of organic matter to soil, increasing soil tilth, improving soil aerations, and feeding soil microrganisms. 

Soil Compaction – Cover Crops roots can reduce soil compaction, either with fibrous roots that fracture the soil in the upper profile, or tap roots that penetrate plow pans, and reach into the lower soil profile. The increased soil macro-pores allow rain to penetrate the soil and reduce run-off. The roots of following crops can follow these soil macro-pores deeper into the soil profile and increase nutrient uptake and drought tolerance.

Soil Erosion – Cover Crops can reduce soil erosion caused by wind, water run-off, and rain drop impact.

Nematode Control – Some Cover Crops can substantially reduce harmful nematodes. One method of control may include natural nematode resistance where nematodes are unable to find a host and die. A few Cover Crops serve as a nematode trap host, where nematodes are unable to complete their life cycle. 

Soil Biodiversity – Cover Crops can maintain or increase soil biodiversity, either to compliment crop monocultures, or provide soil nutrients during fallow periods between crop

Featured Cover Crop Variety Descriptions

SUN HEMP

Sun Hemp is used as a nitrogen-fixing green manure to improve soil quality, reduce soil erosion, conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds and nematodes, and recycle plant nutrients. It grows quickly and can produce more than 5,000 lb. dry matter/acre and 120 lb. nitrogen/acre in 9–12 weeks

CLOVER

Cover as a cover crop has several benefits, including contributing up to 120 pounds of soil nitrogen for the following crop rotation. Clover also reduces soil erosion and surface water pollution all while increasing soil organic matter, improving soil tilth and increasing water holding capacities Clover can also greatly reduce grass and broadleaf weed pressure.

ETHIOPIAN CABBAGE

Ethiopian Cabbage is a very unique plant in that it is a deep rooted crop like other brassicas (radish, turnip, etc) but it does not break down and decompose quickly like a radish or turnip. Ethiopian cabbage provides a deep root but also a long lasting residue that offers protection to young crops.

SORGHUM SUDANGRASS

Sorghum sudangrass are midsummer grasses suitable for 8-10 week plantings. They are the most heat and drought-tolerant cover crops. These crops provide abundant root biomass, which is useful for increasing soil organic matter, especially carbon. They suppress root knot nematodes and inhibit weed germination if densely sown.

RADISH

The Radish primary benefit is its ability to perform “bio-tillage.” Its big taproot greatly disturbs soil in the upper eight inches. The radish decomposes quickly in the spring, leaving large holes in the soil. This can be beneficial for no-till growers, or others looking to reduce spring tillage. The taproot may also help with soil compaction.

TURNIPS AND RAPE

As fall-seeded Brassicas, turnips and rape are beneficial because they suppress weeds in the following crop. They also decompose quickly after being turned under. Turnip and rape grow quickly and are good at reducing surface compaction while providing winter cover and fall weed suppression. They can also scavenge soil nitrogen that has gone below the crop root zone.

HAIRY VETCH

Hairy vetch fixes large amounts of nitrogen (N) that help meet N needs of the following crop, protects soil from erosion, helps improve soil tilth, and provides weed control during its vigorous growth in the spring. 

SAFFLOWER

Safflower is a warm season broadleaf, that can be planted very early in the spring and will tolerate sub-freezing temperatures in its rosette stage. It is an annual with an upright growth habit and good salinity tolerance. It is very deep rooted and effective at mining’ mobile nutrients deep in the soil profile. 

WINTER TRITICALE

Winter Triticale is a cross between winter rye and winter wheat known for its nutritional value as a forage crop. Offers good yields and great quality for spring feeding.

WINTER BARLEY

Winter Barley performs better on poorer soils than many other cereal grains and early maturity. It’s forage quality make it a top choice for dairy farmers following corn silage.

Download our brochure to learn more about Cover Crop Seeds