Cover Crops for Organic Farms
Soluble nutrients, especially nitrogen, are left in the soil after the cash crop has been harvested. Over the winter, bare soil is prone to losses of nutrients both to the air by volatilization and to the water by leaching and runoff. Growing a “catch crop” will reduce those losses by scavenging nutrients, especially nitrogen, into their own tissues and holding them over winter. Catch crops are planted after cash crops are harvested or following legume plowdowns or manure spreading to hold onto easily leached nitrogen and other nutrients.
Effectiveness of Catch Crops
Catch crops can be legumes or grasses. In general, legume cover crops do not scavenge nitrogen as well as grasses. If you need a cover crop to take up excess nutrients after manure or fertilizer applications, a grass, a brassica or a mixture is usually a better choice.
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Within This Chapter: Cover Crops for Organic Farms
- Introduction to Cover Crops for Organic Farms
- National Organic Program Standards for Cover Crops
- Benefits and Drawbacks of Cover Crops
- Life Cycle of Cover Crops
- Types of Cover Crops
- Cover Cropping Systems
- Nitrogen Fixation by Legumes
- Green Manures
- Catch Crops
- Managing Pests with Cover Crops
- Cover Crop Strategies with Crop Rotations
- Selecting Cover Crop Species
- Buliding Complimentary Cover Crop Mixtures
- Cover Crops in Perennial Systems
- Establishment of Cover Cropss
- Termination of Cover Crops