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Cover Crops

Cover Crops

Florida Soil Characteristics

The extremely sandy soils of Florida make it difficult to establish crop stands and to attain deep rooting and other factors associated with crop vigor, yield, and quality. Appropriate use of cover crops may partially replace chemical fertilizer usage and result in less soil erosion and increased yields, thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.

Cover crops

These are plants that help to protect the soil from wind, rainfall, and sunlight. Cover crops provide improvement of the soil composition, soil structure and organic matter content, water infiltration, root penetration, and nutrient recycling. Additional benefits include reducing erosion, water runoff, and nutrient leaching. Cover crops enhance soil fertility via improved nutrient retention, organic matter, and cycling, while leguminous cover crops add nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Cover crops Classification

There are cover crops that have a life cycle of one year and others that can endure for several years. Annual crops can be categorized in two classes: cool season and warm season.  Also, we can classify the type of cover crops by grass, grain, and legumes. Grass crops tend to grow faster and produce more biomass but don’t have the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil (around 200 pounds per acre per growing season).

Summer cover crops tend to generate more biomass than cool-season leguminous crops but require adequate soil moisture, fertility (especially phosphorus), and a suitably high (6.0–6.5) soil pH to perform well. Cool-season legumes often do not perform well in sandy soils during the first years of cultivation. In contrast, many of the warm season annual leguminous crops listed in Table 1 tend to be a little more vigorous and require additional management.


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D. L. Wright, C. Mackowiak, and A.Blount (2017). Cover Crops

Y.C. Newman, D.W. Wright, C. Mackowiak, J.M.S. Scholberg, and C.M. Cherr (2014). Benefits of Cover Crops for Soil Health.