Date of this Version
Nebraska Extension NebGuide G2284 (2017)
When deciding how best to use cover crops, it is important to consider the ultimate goal. Is it to increase soil organic matter, increase nutrient availability to subsequent crops, reduce soil compaction, supply forage for livestock, and/or suppress weeds? Answering these questions will help identify the cover crops that offer the best chance of success for meeting the goal. Primarily, cover crops are used to enhance soil conservation, nutrient cycling and supply, and weed control. However, these benefits vary based on the species of cover crop that is planted, so it is important to select the crop type that will fit into your current cropping system, as well as provide the desired outcome.
It is important to note that yield decreases to the subsequent commodity crop have sometimes been observed with the use of cover crops, from incomplete termination, soil moisture loss, and/or nutrient immobilization. All of these can be minimized with proper selection and management of your cover crop.