The reasons why farmers use cover crops are as varied as the number of species that can be used as a cover crop. Traditionally cover crops were used for erosion control but in the past few years’ cover crops have been used for other purposes.

 Building soil organic matter is one way that farmers are using cover crops.  Both below and above ground growth of cover crops have a positive effect on soil structure and living organisms in the soil. The following chart highlights those common cover crops grown in Michigan that are excellent, very good, and good at building soil organic matter.

Excellent

Very Good

Good

Cereal Rye

Annual Ryegrass

Oat

Sorghum-Sudan

Barley

Buckwheat

Sweet Clovers

Wheat

Rapeseed

 

Mustard

Cowpea

 

Radish

Field Pea

 

Berseem Clover

White Clover

 

Crimson Clover

 
 

Hairy Vetch

 
 

Red Clover

 

Chart information taken from Managing Cover Crops Profitably third edition, SARE Handbook Series 9.

For more information or to help decide what cover crop will be best for your farm contact Michigan State University Extension educators Christina Curell, curellc@anr.msu.edu or Paul Gross, grossp@anr.msu.edu. More information can also be found at the Midwest Cover Council website.