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Cover Crops

Cover Crops

The Key to protecting our soil from eroding it away is to have good living vegetation during as much of the year as possible.
Cover Crops, or a plant used to cover the soil in between primary crops, is the very best way to protect your soil from the erosion of a cropping system.
The real goal to a productive soil is to have a healthy Soil.   Soil Health is occurring when you are building good, dark soil high in Organic Matter, and attracting a broad range of organisms living in the soil. 

Cover Crops come in many types, shapes, sizes, and root structures.  There is no “one size fits all” cover crop.  Rather, cover crops should be chosen based on what you want accomplished.  Many Cover Crops can have a combination of many of the following benefits:

Source of Nitrogen  -Cover Crops known as legumes, such as Clover and Alfalfa, can help to “fix” nitrogen.  They actually utilize a relationship between Rhizobium bacteria and atmospheric Nitrogen (N2) to provide Nitrogen fertilizer to your Crop.

Nitrogen Scavenger- Many Cover Crops do not provide Nitrogen, but instead “scavenge” it from deeper in the soil profile, and bring it back closer to the surface so it can be utilized for the following crop.

Soil Building and Loosening- When a Cover Crop is grown, it is typically going to have a very different root structure than the primary crop being grown.  The more diverse a cover crop mix is, the more diverse and beneficial the roots will be in terms of loosening the soil and attracting diverse soil life.  This all adds to significantly improved infiltration of rain, retention of nutrients, and building of soil.

Erosion Preventer- Preventing erosion is the classic benefit of Cover Crops.  If you keep the soil covered at all times, erosion is greatly reduced or even potentially eliminated. If you have bare soil at any point of the year, try to choose a Cover Crop that can fill that window of time.  Your Soil and Crops will thank and repay you!

Weed Fighter or “Smother Crop”- Cover Crops have been proven to reduce or eliminate weeds if properly managed.  Cover Crops may do this by smothering out the competition through outcompeting, shading, or even through natural plant chemicals that prevent weed seeds from germinating (allelopathy).
Roller Crimper

The Roller Crimper method is a way to “Crimp Down” a Cover Crop so that the Cover Crop acts as a living mulch on a field wide scale.  Winter Rye is the most common and most provably successful crop to use with the Roller Crimper method. Vernon County has been involved with multiple successful demonstrations of the Roller Crimper on area farms.

Asst. County Conservationist/Project Manager
Certified Crop Advisor, Grazing Specialist, Nutrient Management Planner
Vernon County Land and Water Conservation Department
220 Airport Road
Viroqua, WI 54665
(608) 637-5482