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Benefits of Using a Cover Crop & How to Choose One

Cover crops are utilized in the agriculture industry and smaller gardens to control weed growth when a patch of land is not in use. This practice is usually performed during the off-season. (In Florida this is commonly the summer). At the end of the off-season, the cover crop can be tilled over, adding a small quantity of nutrients and good amount of organic matter into the soil. For this reason, cover crops are often termed “green manure.” Make sure to also till the cover crop into the soil before it produces seeds, this will prevent spreading, as many cover crops are “weedy.”
Not only do cover crops help to control weeds but also help to prevent soil erosion and can reduce certain nematode populations. In Florida, marigolds are commonly used as a cover crop to help reduce nematode populations. However, not all marigold varieties are equal when it comes to controlling nematode populations. Certain cultivars of marigold’s control only certain species of nematodes, so it is important to determine which species of nematode is present in your farm/garden. If you are a commercial farmer, this is extremely vital as choosing the wrong marigold cultivar can actually increase your nematode population. To determine what nematode species you have, you can send soil to the UF Entomology lab (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/sr011). Please read the directions completely, before you sample your soil, testing for nematodes is very different than soil tested for nutrients. It is also important to note to send it to the UF Entomology Lab, not Soil Testing Lab on campus. Since the nematodes must be received alive, overnight shipping is recommended.
For more information on marigold cover crops and how to choose the correct variety, visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ng045.
For more information on which cover crop species would be correct for your farm/garden, visit .
For more information on cover crop benefits, visit gardening solutions.

E. Santiago-Gomez

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