For several weeks now growers in eastern Washington have sown their fields to fall and over wintering green manure crops as summer crop harvests are completed. That task will continue for just a few more weeks until the shorter days and cooler temperatures do not allow for sufficient crop growth prior to winter. The primary aims of growing a cover crop are to
- reduce soil erosion due to wind and water
- provide food and habitat for fauna and flora
- capture soil nutrients within the crop rooting zone and retain these for the following season
- help break up compacted soils
- build soil structure and quality
- add soil nitrogen by including legume species
- help suppress weeds, pests and diseases.
By carefully selecting the right species for your location, season, crop rotation and intended goal, you can go a long way to preparing your soil for next season's crop, while at the same time giving back to mother nature and the environment.
For details on suitable cover crops in your area search for articles from your university extension office or check out these resources: