Types of Cover Crops

Types of Cover Crops

To be 100% honest with you, Cover Crops are nothing fancy. You can find cover crop seed available through garden centers, online sites and through seed houses. You can find all kinds of different Cover Crop seed varieties through our online store. Cover Crops generally fall into four main categories: grasses, broadleaves, brassicas and legumes. We briefly cover these four categories of Cover Crops below:

Grasses

Grasses generally produce the highest yields and greatest biomass of all of the plant species. Grasses comprise the bulk of many mixes, including most grazing mixes, and are generally very palatable for livestock. These plants tend to be higher in carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and can provide excellent residue if allowed to go to maturity. Grasses and grains are typically mixed with legumes like clover or hairy vetch to produce more benefits including biomass productions, soil conditioning, weed control, and nitrogen scavenging. 

Common Grasses: Rye, Triticale, Millets, Oats, and Sorghums. 

Broadleaves

Broadleaves are a great way to add diversity to a cover crop mix. Most broadleaves have extensive root systems that are fantastic for soil building. Broadleaves can also be used for compaction breaking, erosion control, and attracting beneficial insects.

Common Broadleaves: Flax, Sunflower, Gourds and Pumpkins, Buckwheat, Safflower, and Phacelia. 

Brassicas

Brassicas are an excellent addition to many cover crop mixtures because of their ability to suppress weeds and break up soil compaction. Brassicas are also used for nutrient scavenging and producing a high amount of biomass in the fall. They can be a great component of a grazing mixture, but in most cases we would not recommend more than 2-3 lbs per acre in a mix.

Common Brassicas: Radish, Collards, Turnips, Mustards, and Camelina

Legumes 

These fast-growing forage species develop abundant biomass, reduce or prevent erosion, fix atmospheric nitrogen, and attract beneficial insects when they flower. Legumes are best known for their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen that benefits the soil and following crops. In forage mixtures, legumes can be used to add protein. They are also a valuable addition to mixes used to reduce erosion, build organic matter, and attract beneficial insects.

Most legume seeds are available inoculated with Rhizobium bacteria, or you can purchase inoculant separately and apply it yourself, to ensure complete, fast and successful nitrogen fixation. 

Common Legumes: Peas, Soybeans, Hairy Vetch, Clovers and Sunn Hemp

Mixes

It has been observed that a mixture of plants often per-forms better than a monoculture of the best performing plant in that mix. Each plant species has unique liquid carbon root exudates that feed a diverse community of microbes, making the whole system work. This is one of the reasons we try to create diverse cover crop mixtures instead of just picking the highest yielding or the “best” species. Plant diversity also provides different root types for better use of soil resources, a layered canopy to capture more sunlight, better nutrition for livestock grazing, and far lower risk of any one insect or disease taking out the stand. Green Cover is the industry leader in designing and delivering customized diverse cover crop mixes. We encourage you to use the SmartMix® calculator to experiment with building mixes. 

Common Mixes: Warm Season Soil Builder, Cool Season Soil Builder, Mycorrhizal Mix, and High Diversity Mix

Cover Crops can achieve many of your goals as a grower, from nutrient building and erosion control to pest and weed suppression. Including, creating a more natural way to bring food to the soil and contribute to a healthy environment. Cover Crops really aren't difficult once you do a little bit of planning and learning. You can easily ease into the idea and produce a positive experience in the first year. 

If you have questions about cover cropping, please drop us a line in the comments section below! 


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