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Choosing the right cover crop in a late harvest year


WITH THE LATE HARVEST – FARMERS HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT GETTING COVER CROPS PLANTED – BEFORE THE FREEZE. MATT BRUGGER IS HERE FROM TILTH AGRONOMY GROUP. COVER CROPS ARE TYPICALLY PLANTED AS SEEDS DIRECTLY IN THE GROUND (NOT TRANSPLANTED) AT THE END OF THE AS SEEDS DIRECTLY IN THE GROUND (NOT TRANSPLANTED) AT THE END OF THE GROWING SEASON AFTER THE LAST OF THE SUMMER CROPS HAVE BEEN HARVESTED AND BEFORE COLD WEATHER SETS IN. MANY COVER CROPS ARE LEGUMES THAT CONVERT NITROGEN FROM THE ATMOSPHERE INTO A SOLUBLE FORM THAT OTHER PLANTS CAN ABSORB. SOME COVER CROPS ACCUMULATE OTHER ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS LIKE PHOSPHORUS, BUT ALL COVER CROPS ADD ORGANIC MATTER TO THE SOIL. RATHER THAN BEING HARVESTED FOR FOOD, COVER CROPS ARE TILLED BACK INTO THE SOIL AT THE END OF THEIR GROWING CYCLE WHERE THE NUTRIENTS ARE RELEASED AS THE PLANTS DECOMPOSE. IN A WAY, COVER CROPPING IS LIKE COMPOSTING IN SITU NO NEED FOR HAULING IN MANURE OR BUILDING A PILE AND THEY’RE SOMETIMES CALLED ‘GREEN MANURE’ FOR THIS REASON. THERE ARE OTHER REASONS TO PLANT COVER CROPS. WINTER RAINS CAN CAUSE EROSION PROBLEMS FOR FARMERS AND GARDENERS, SO IT’S IMPORTANT TO MAINTAIN VEGETATIVE COVER ONCE THE CROPS HAVE BEEN HARVESTED FOR THE YEAR. PLANTING A DENSE COVER CROP IN FALL PREVENTS WEEDS FROM GETTING ESTABLISHED, SO THERE IS LESS WEEDING TO DO COME SPRING. WHEN A COVER CROP STARTS TO FLOWER IN LATE WINTER OR EARLY SPRING, IT’S AN EARLY

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