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What are Cover Crops?

Cover crops are grasses, legumes, and other forbs that are planted for the protection and enrichment of the soil. Cover crops are traditionally planted on farms but can be used in gardens. A cover crop is any crop grown to cover the soil and may be incorporated into the soil later for enrichment. 

Cover crop Termination Trial.JPG
Benefits of Cover Crops
  • Reduce Soil Erosion

  • Build Soil Tilth & Improve Soil Health

  • Increase Soil Porosity & Infiltration

  • Reduce Pests

  • Improve Soil Microbiology

  • Attract Pollinators

  • Produce/Scavenge Crop Nutrients


  • Reduce Soil Compaction

  • Increase Nutrient Recycling

  • Forage Source

  • Help Winter Annual Weed Control 

  • Improve Yield Potential 

What types of cover crops should I use?

There are many varieties of cover crops and selection depends on when the species can be planted and what is the goal for its use. Legume species fix atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants and microorganisms can use. Non-legume species recycle existing soil nitrogen and other nutrients and can reduce leaching losses. A combination of two or more types of cover crops might be beneficial for establishment and improved nutrient utilization. Visit OSU's summary of NRCS's 340 standard for more information.


Cover crops can be seeded with drills, broadcast equipment, or aerially applied. Cover crops are ideal for planting after early harvest crops like wheat, sweet corn, seed corn, and silage corn.


  • Plant in accordance with the next cash crop

  • Non-irrigated crop termination within 5 days after planting, but prior to crop emergence.


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