Chapter 6

Cover Crops for Organic Farms

Catch Crops

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.

Click on the following topics for more information on cover crops for organic farms.