An Eco-sustainable World
Ecological Glossary

Cover crop

Cover crop

In agriculture, cover crops are plant species planted with the aim of covering the ground rather than for the purpose of being harvested.
In general, cover crops manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in an agroecosystem.
Furthermore, cover crops can help increase microbial activity in the soil, which has a positive effect on nitrogen availability, nitrogen uptake in target crops and crop yields.
Cover crops reduce water pollution risks and do more to store CO2 from the atmosphere.
These crops are sown between main crops, during dormant periods of the soil or in rotation with commercial crops. The main aspects are listed in detail.

What are –
Cover crops are, therefore, plants grown with the aim of improving the quality and health of the soil. These crops include legumes, grasses, crucifers, and other herbaceous species that are not harvested for food or commercial production, but are used for their agronomic benefits.

What are they for –
Crop covers are used to:
– Prevent soil erosion: The roots of cover plants hold the soil together, reducing the loss of topsoil to wind and water.
– Improve soil structure: The roots of cover crops help create a more stable and porous soil structure.
– Increase soil fertility: leguminous plants, for example, fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, increasing the nutrient content.
– Suppress weeds: Cover crops compete with unwanted weeds for light, space and nutrients, reducing their growth.
– Reduce soil compaction: Some cover crop species, such as horseradish, have deep roots that help break up compacted layers of soil.
– Conserve moisture: Ground cover reduces water evaporation, helping to maintain moisture in the soil.

How they fit into crops –
Cover crops are inserted into crop cycles in various ways:
– Among the main crops: they can be sown between harvests to cover the soil during rest periods.
– In rotation: can be included in crop rotation plans to break disease and pest cycles.
– As a catch crop: they can be sown together with main crops so that they grow at the same time without excessively competing for resources.

Benefits Provided –
Crop covers bring numerous benefits, including:
– Improved soil health: increase organic matter and improve soil microbial biodiversity.
– Reduction in the use of chemical fertilizers: for example the ability to fix nitrogen reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers.
– Sustainable management of water resources: improve soil water retention and reduce water erosion.
– Increased biodiversity: create habitats for beneficial insects and other organisms that contribute to the agricultural ecosystem.
– Mitigation of climate change: they sequester atmospheric carbon in the soil, helping to reduce CO2 levels.
In summary, cover crops are included, especially in agroecology, among sustainable agricultural techniques with the aim of offering multiple agronomic and environmental advantages, making crops more resilient and productive in the long term.

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