Cover Crops for Organic Farms

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Cover crops are pivotal parts of every organic farmer’s management scheme. They are crucial to the main goals of building soil health and preventing soil erosion. Cover crops are also important tools for increasing fertility and controlling weeds, pathogens, and insects in organic crops. In this publication, we will discuss planting, growing, and incorporating cover crops as amendments into the soil. Our discussion will include the following topics:

  • How cover crops affect the soil, including how they impart nitrogen for cash crops and how they can be used to control crop pests and diseases. We will also point out some concerns of growing cover crops, such as the potential for them to rob soil of moisture needed for cash crops and to harbor damaging insects and pathogens.
  • Establishing cover crops involves using a drill and cultipacking the field.
  • Managing cover crop residue. The residue can be incorporated or left on the surface after using a kill method.
  • The economics of planting cover crops. Each farmer must consider the cost of establishing the cover crop and its benefits.
Keith R. Baldwin
Nancy G. Creamer
North Carolina State University