Thursday, April 11, 2013


NOP: 205.205 AND 205.203 

We have investigated rotating crops and their value now we will look at cover crops and their value.

Planting crops that you kill either by “winter kill” or deliberate kill can add great value to weed control, moisture control and nutrient value.

Cover crops that are planted with the intent to leave on the ground give a Gardner all three advantage of rotating crops.  Winter kill cover crops can be rotated under in the Spring or left in the field with the intended cash crop planted without tilling.  This is a new method in farming primarily developed by the Rodale institute and they call it organic NO-till. 

A cover crop is planted in the fall or early spring with the intention of killing the crop and leaving it on the ground for its mulch advantages. 
“No-till farming techniques have gained great popularity over the past two decades as growers seek new ways to protect and conserve their soil and save time and money. No-till production allows farmers to save all three because it reduces or eliminates the need to till fields for planting or weed cultivation.  One of the key elements of our organic no-till research is a front-mounted cover-crop roller that knocks down a weed-suppressing mat that can be planted through all in one quick pass.” Say Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute

An example of cover cropping is when winter wheat or rye is planted after harvest in the fall, left to grow with the winter climate "killing" the crop hopefully before in seeds.  In the spring, the farmers plants their money crop without tilling the ground.  Thus leaving the root system of the winter kill in place which starts the degrading process and in turn all to microbial activity.

Another example is to plant a crop in the fall or early spring with the intentions of "killing" that crop just before planting the cash crop.  This method lays down a layer of mulch (crimping or rolling) which protects the ground from the hot sun, gaining  added moisture.  The killed crops starts the decaying process which generate additional microbial growth and nutrients as well as "shading out" or suppressing weeds.  The cash crop is planted into the ground with the "kill" crop still in place.  The best way to understand this is to look at some examples of cover cropping. 

This is a picture of the Roller at work at the Rodale Institute and they also have plans for creating your own. 
Sometimes a planter is on the back of the tractors so that rolling and planting are done in one sweep saving bio fuel and time.

The University of Oregon has a pdf guide of “Cover crops for Home Gardeners” 

Cereal Rye coming up in October in harvested corn field.  Courtesy of the NRCS, cover crops

Cover crop of cereal rye that was killed a few months earlier with soybean planted.  This inhibits the growth of weeds, keeps in the moisture and provide nutrients.  Farmers have report high yields in drought years using this method when neighboring farmers were loosing crops to the drought. Courtesy of the NRCS, cover crops

See more pictorials of Cover Cropping at DIY Organic Garden and Pinterest NOP Cover Crop

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