Date of this Version



© 1993, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


This NebGuide describes how cover crops can be integrated into various cropping systems. Agricultural producers are hearing more about cover crops, but many are unsure how such plants might be used in current crop production systems. Cover crops are legumes, cereals or an appropriate mixture. They are grown specifically to protect soil from erosion, protect emerging crops from blowing soil particles, improve soil structure, enhance soil fertility, reduce nutrient leaching, recycle nutrients and suppress weeds. A number of plant species could be used, but they must be successfully integrated into a diverse number of cropping systems used in Nebraska. Nebraska has many areas where cover crops can be valuable. First, there are the sandy soils in the Sandhills. Antelope, Holt, Madison, Pierce and Stanton counties have large acreages of these sandy soils in cultivated crop production. The rolling loess hills of eastern Nebraska, alternately cropped to soybeans and corn, could benefit from use of cover crops. The low organic matter, sandy soils of southwest Nebraska are vulnerable to wind erosion. The same is true of soils in the irrigationd North Platte River Valley, where field beans, potatoes and sugarbeets leave little crop residue.