Cover crops

8 July 2021

A millenary practice with numerous advantages

Cover crops are an agricultural practice employed since the 17th century. It consists of the association of a living plant cover, in other words, plants that cover the soil for different reasons. This type of crop is used to support the secondary needs of the farmer and usually not for human consumption.

It is often seen in legumes, although it can be done with almost any crop. Depending on the season of the year we can find different sowings and it is also possible to find two different plants sown together.

It is a very common practice that can be observed both in the long and short term, depending on the different purposes to be achieved.

What do we use cover crops for?

  • To prevent erosion
  • To regulate moisture
  • To assist weeds and pests’ control
  • To serve as mulch or green manure

Cover crops are widely used in crop rotation, direct seeding and organic farming.

The main advantages of their use

They are a low-cost practice, which increases productivity because, from the same piece of land, the farmer can grow one crop for human consumption and another to feed grazing livestock.

Another main advantage is that they greatly reduce the need to invest in pesticides and fertilizers because of their fertility-enhancing effects on the soil. This is because some plants make it easier for nutrients to be absorved by others.

As well as cover crops with deep and shallow roots facilitate soil aeration. For the same reason, the crops have the advantage of a much wider ecological range.

In summary, cover crops are a very versatile technique that, when used well, offers multiple benefits.