Cover Crops

No field, regardless of its use or location, should be allowed to lie bare throughout the late fall, winter and early spring months. Make sure that soil -saving cover crops are seeded following such row crops as tobacco, corn, peanuts, potatoes and soybeans.

Cover Crop Benefits
Hairy Vetch
Crimson Clover
Annual Ryegrass
Rye (Winter) V.N.S.


Seeded in the fall following harvest, a recommended cover crop will come up quickly to provide protective soil cover. Vetch, crimson clover and annual ryegrass are the principal cover crops used in this Mid-Atlantic, Upper South area. Small grain, particularly rye, also is used not only as a cover crop but also to extend the grazing season and to produce mulch for the next spring's no-till plantings.

  Cover Crops Benefits
  • Winter protection against leaching and erosion.
  • Improved soil tilth and soil fertility.
  • Higher crop yields in future.
  • Helps meet soil cover requirements of conservation plans.
  • Recovers plant food not utilized by harvested crop.
  • Labor saved for the livestock producer - more grazing days.
  • Winter pasture - therefore, cheaper winter feed.
  • Less nitrogen needed when vetch, crimson clover are used.
  • Supplies mulch necessary for no-till plantings.
  Hairy Vetch
Most common vetches are annuals; however, hairy vetch is neither annual nor biennial. Is very winter-hardy. Can be used for hay, silage or pasture, and is especially valuable for green manure or cover crop. Best seeded from September - October using 20-30lbs. per acre when seeded alone. Always inoculate prior to seeding.
  Crimson Clover
An upright winter annual, resembling medium red clover in size and appearance except for the flower heads. Used throughout the Mid-Atlantic region except for West Virginia, where it will not withstand the winter. Seed in July, August, or early September at the rate of 20-25lbs. per acre. Usually seeded for winter cover and green manure or some cases for pasture and hay. Seed should always be inoculated.
  Annual Ryegrass
(Also known as Domestic, Common and Italian)
Classified as an annual or a short-lived perennial. Generally make a round bunch with 20 or more flowering shoots 1 1/2' - 3' high. Used in temporary pastures; provides a green manure and cover crop with a comparatively low seed cost. Should make enough growth to protect soil from erosion, provide enough root growth to improve the tilth of the soil and furnish some fall and spring pastures when field would not be injured by trampling. Seed about 20lbs. per acre in September.
Rye is very winter-hardy and has the ability to perform well even on infertile soils. Used through the Mid-Atlantic area for pasture, winter cover, green manure and grain. Rye also makes good no-till cover.

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