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Why cover crops are beneficial to your farm

By Grace Chomba

Clover acting as a cover crop in a corn plantation.

Cover crops are plants that are planted to cover the soil to keep it in place and improving soil health. They can be intercropped with other crops or planted after harvesting. The crops are mainly grown to protect the soil from soil erosion and enhance the quality of the soil. Cover crops can help a farmer minimize costs incurred during soil protection activities and produce pasture which can be used as animal feeds.

Cover crops can be grown between regular crops like corn, soya bean and wheat. Examples of cover crops are annual ryegrass, crimson clover, oats, oil-seed radishes, and cereal rye.

Here are some cover crops benefits to your friends. 

Suppress weeds

Cover crops suppress weeds by posing a direct competition. The crops will compete strongly with weeds for space, light, nutrients and moisture. This will reduce the weed growth rate by 80 per cent.

Cover crops have a mulching effect. After the cover crops residues are left in the soil surfaces as mulch, it continues to hinder weed growth. Nutrients used by weeds will be saved thus improving the growth of healthy crops.

Here are some cover crop farming benefits.

Manage soil moisture

As crops are cultivated on bare land, they will help to conserve soil moisture required by other crops. It covers the soil from heat and excessive soil moisture evaporation by offering shade to bare soil.  They can improve soil moisture in the soil by 10 per cent.

Prevent soil erosion

Cover crops can be used to curb soil erosion. It reduces the runoff impact from rainfall that exposes soil to sheet and rill soil erosion. Cover crops will provide coverage to the soil surface and give protection from strong wind and rain. The organic matter from the cover crops will improve soil structure that will reduce soil erosion.

Break pest cycle

Cover crops farming is a natural means of controlling pest and diseases.  They reduce bacteria and fungi causing diseases in the soil.

Soil fertility

Cover crops will add nutrients to the soil for example legumes will fix nitrogen while growing. They will also add organic matter into the soil that helps in improving soil structure. The decomposing organic matter will provide nutrients and habitat to organisms living in the soil.

Cover crops will increase rain infiltration, reduce surface runoff and improve the soil structure and overall soil quality. Cover crops improve soil structure and stability that make soil capable to withstand heavy farm equipment lessening surface compaction. Cover crops with deep roots help to break up compaction.

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