USDA Offers Cover Crop Chart

Kelly MarshallCover Crops, Soil, USDA

cover cropScientists at the USDA have released a “Cover Crop Chart” to help growers choose a crop that will meet their productions needs.  Cover crops are becoming more popular as farmers recognize their potential to help reduce erosion, increase organic matter, improve weed control and provide forage.  This service allows cover crops to create more resilient and efficient production system.

Soil scientist Mark Liebig and his colleagues with the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL) in Mandan, North Dakota, created the Cover Crop Chart, which can be downloaded for free at ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

The interactive chart, which was recently updated from its first release in 2010, gives growers a broad spectrum of potential options that could benefit their operations. The chart includes information on crop species that may be planted individually or in mixtures and gives specifics on growth cycle, water use, plant architecture, forage quality, pollination and more. Crops are categorized by similar attributes—cool season or warm season, grasses or broadleaf and legumes or non-legumes.

The updated chart now includes 58 cover crop species, along with new sections addressing salt-tolerant grasses and placement of crops within a cash-crop rotation.

Read more in the June 2015 issue of AgResearch magazine.