Cover crops are plants that have been planted into agricultural fields during or after the growing season. The main purpose of cover crops is to enhance and maintain ecology. Furthermore, cover crops can potentially provide several benefits in a cropping system by improving the soil’s physical and biological properties.
The various physical properties of soil all affect the way it functions. Soil quality can be improved by executing effective management practices; managing the soil for properties such as aggregation, structure, and porosity are key to a soil’s health. In particular, root development, and air and water movement are significantly influenced by the physical properties.
Cover cropping can improve soil conditions. Cover crops provide an additional cover of the topsoil which helps to reduce erosion, compaction, and weed and insect pressure.In addition, cover crops increase the amount of organic matter in a field and promote nutrient cycling. Roots secrete a glue-like substance that holds soil particles together along with organic matter; loose soil will allow root systems to develop and create channels throughout the soil. For this reason soil structure, aggregate stability, and water infiltration are all improved and biodiversity is increased.
Taking cover crops to another level
David Brandt is a remarkable farmer from Central Ohio. He began using cover crops in 1978 when he noticed a decrease in corn yields on his field. Unaware of the effects of cover cropping, he planted hairy vetch and winter peas into the system with intentions of obtaining additional nitrogen to supplement the commercial nitrogen that he was already using. Over the years, he began noticing notable improvements in water infiltration and crop quality. Improving the soil’s health with cover crops led to the reduction of inputs like herbicides and insecticides .
“We’re learning now with cover crops that we don’t need to buy those additional nutrients because we can bring them up from deeper in the soil. They just weren’t available to the crop before…We’ve had less weed and pest pressure as we’ve gone along.”
The Midwest Cover Crops Council
The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) seeks to expand public awareness of cover crops and increase the acceptance of cover crops throughout the Midwest by developing incentives and educational programs for farmers. The MCCC strives to expedite the adoption of cover crops and improve environmental, financial, and social sustainability across the Midwestern region.For more information on MCCC please visit their website,
My name is Na’keisha Brown, I am a senior at Western Illinois University majoring in
Agricultural Science. Currently, I am a member of the horticulture club. My hobbies include painting, yoga, and shopping. I plan on returning home to Chicago, IL ,after graduating.