Cover crops worth considering

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Associate Agronomist, Seed Consultants, Inc.

At a recent Conservation Tillage Conference, Dave Robison gave an interesting presentation about legume cover crops. While farmers are beginning to work with and see the benefits of cover crops, they may want to consider adding legumes into their mix of cover crops.

Legumes will fix N, can have a deep fibrous root system, and will cause an increase in soil biological activity. As one speaker at the conference said, cover crops can be like “giving your earthworms Red Bull.” For interesting information on the benefits of no-till and cover crops check out this article on Robison’s website.

Some legumes you may want to consider for cover crops are medium red clover, crimson clover, Austrian winter pea, cowpea, and hairy vetch. It is important for producers to select the right cover crops that will benefit their specific management practices. Below are some possible benefits of growing legume cover crops:

  • · Some legume cover crops can fix 90+ units of N
  • · Small top growth can still result in 20 to 30 in of root growth
  • · Deep fibrous root systems will improve soil quality and promote biological activity
  • · Other cover crops (such as radishes) will have better growth when planted along with a legume cover crop.

When considering legume cover crops, farmers will have to make some decisions based on their own operations. Legume cover crops may offer many benefits when grown in a mix with other cover crops. For more information about cover crops, check out Dave Robison’s website at


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