Cover crop usage is rapidly expanding in every crop production area of the United States. Extensive public and private studies over the past 10 years, along with growers’ own experiences, have proven agronomic, environmental and economic benefits. Ultimately, growers want to see increased net profits, and cover crops have shown to increase cash crop profits by as much as $200 per acre.

How do cover crops increase farm profits?

Break Soil Compaction

Several cover crop species grow deep root systems, breaking surface and subsurface soil compaction. The following cash crop can then grow deeper root systems, which reduces water and fertilizer needs. Reduction of soil compaction also results in better water infiltration (less runoff).

Decrease Fertilizer Needs

Not only can some cover crop species break soil compaction, allowing subsequent crops to mine deeper nutrients, some species are very effective at recycling nutrients. Radishes, for example, absorb nutrients and hold those nutrients in their large root systems and leafy foliage. When the radish is terminated, a significant amount of those nutrients are released back into the soil. Legumes generate nitrogen. Other species free up micro nutrients that can then be used by subsequent crops.

Increase Organic Content

With heavy foliage and/or massive root systems, numerous covers species add significant organic content to the soil when terminated. Increasing organic content improves healthy microbial activity and improves water-holding capacity. According to the University of Missouri, 1 pound of organic content can hold up to 20 pounds of water.

Disease and Pest Control

Some cover crop species are natural biofumigants. Mustards, for example, are well known for their biofumigant properties. Oftentimes, the simple act of rotating species in the field can reduce disease pressure.

Decrease Herbicide Usage

A healthy cover crop can be very effective at suppressing weed growth, which can reduce herbicide applications.

Erosion Control

Farms, even in lower rainfall areas, often lose several tons of topsoil per acre each year. The topsoil is the most productive soil layer. Cover crops can make sure the soil stays where it is needed.

The combination of all these benefits, along with others, promotes healthier soils and crops (producing larger yields) and saves money on inputs. The result is high profits. AgService Seeds is a leader in cover crop expertise and product development. Regardless of your farming operation, AgService Seeds has one or more cover crop products to maximize your productivity. Many products are available with organic seed.

MIXES

Erosion Mix

A versatile mix that can be planted at virtually any time of year. Triticale and rye are quick to germinate and are very cold tolerant, providing ground cover and erosion control when needed most. The mix can be used as quality forage.

Cold Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): High

Drought Tolerance: (Low, Medium, High) High

Heat Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Low to Medium

Low Fertility Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium to High

Soil pH Preference: 5.0-7.5

Seeding Rate: 80 lbs/acre

Planting Time: Can be planted during most months in California. Usually fall planted.

Formulation: 50% triticale, 40% rye

Nematode Mix

Nematode infestations can result in major yield loss. This mix is designed to reduce or eliminate nematode hatches and/or development. Triticale and rye can produce a hostile environment for nematodes to develop. A component of this mix, Braco white mustard, is a natural biofumigant and can continue to control nematodes after it is incorporated into the soil.

Cold Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium to High

Drought Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): High

Heat Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Low Fertility Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium to High

Soil pH Preference: 5.0-7.5

Seeding Rate: 65 lbs/acre

Planting Time: Fall

Formulation: 45% triticale, 30% rye, 20% Excede wheat, 5% Braco white mustard

Max N Mix

Designed to produce the maximum amount of nitrogen during the cool season, this mix can generate more than 150 lbs of nitrogen per acre by the conclusion of its growing season. The vigorous-growing legumes can also generate a significant amount of organic content.

Cold Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Drought Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Heat Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Low

Low Fertility Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Soil pH Preference: 6.0-7.5

Seeding Rate: 35 lbs/acre

Planting Time: Fall

Formulation: 50% Bell beans, 25% Dundale peas, 10% common vetch

Max Soil Builder Mix

This mix is a versatile product that can produce significant top growth and massive root systems. The combination of grasses and legumes provide numerous benefits that increase organic content and soil health. When fall planted in moderate climates, the mix can provide ground cover throughout the fall, winter and spring.

Cold Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Drought Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Heat Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Low

Low Fertility Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Soil pH Preference: 5.5-7.5

Seeding Rate: 50 lbs/acre

Planting Time: Fall

Formulation: 30% Bell beans, 25% Dundale peas, 25% Cayuse oats, 20% Excede wheat

GP Plowdown Mix

Developed specifically for plowing/disking into the soil in the spring, this mix incorporates winter cereal grains, spring oats, and peas to easily build organic content and add nitrogen. In colder climates, fall plantings result in the spring oats eventually freezing out. However, the peas and triticale often survive through the spring, providing constant ground cover.

Cold Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium to High

Drought Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): High

Heat Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Low Fertility Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Soil pH Preference: 5.5-7.5

Seeding Rate: 65 lbs/acre

Planting Time: Fall

Formulation: 45% Cayuse oats, 30% Dundale peas, 25% triticale

Low-Grow Fescue Mix

Different than most other cover crops, this perennial mix is often used as low-maintenance ground cover in orchards and vineyards. Comprised of fine fescue species, this low-growing mix is designed for minimal mowing and performs well in low-fertility soils.

Cold Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): High

Drought Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Heat Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Low Fertility Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): High

Soil pH Preference: 5.0-7.5

Seeding Rate: 30 lbs/acre

Planting Time: Fall or Spring

Formulation: 50% Granite hard fescue, 25% sheep’s fescue, 25% creeping red fescue

SINGLE SPECIES

Braco White Mustard

An improved white mustard variety, Braco can provide numerous benefits as a cover crop. Perhaps its most unique and valuable characteristic is being a natural biofumigant. It can reduce pest and weed development. White mustard also produces significant growth above and below ground for improved soil tilth, and it builds organic content. Quick to establish, Braco also assists with erosion control. Braco will die when temperatures fall into the mid-20s.

Cold Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Drought Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium to High

Heat Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Low Fertility Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium to High

Soil pH Preference: 5.0-7.5

Seeding Rate: 15 lbs/acre

Planting Time: Generally fall planted but can be spring planted.

Daikon Radish

Daikon radishes are exceptional for cover crop purposes. The species is one of the best at breaking deep soil compaction, nutrient recycling, building organic content, erosion control and weed suppression. University studies have also shown that a radish cover crop can result in spring soil temperatures being 6-8 degrees warmer than a fallow field, which promotes faster crop germination and early-season growth. Daikon radishes will die when temperatures fall into the mid-20s.

Cold Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Drought Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Heat Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Low Fertility Tolerance (Low, Medium, High): Medium

Soil pH Preference: 5.0-7.5

Seeding Rate: 8 lbs/acre

Planting Time: Fall or Spring, at least 45 days before a freeze