Maximizing Benefits of Cover Crops for Soil Health

Clint Thompson Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Soil

Investing in soil health is an adaptive strategy to improve the sustainability and productivity of soils. Cover cropping is a management practice in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) toolbox used to contribute to soil health on working lands.

The NRCS Plant Materials Program, through its network of Plant Materials Centers (PMCs), recently completed a nationwide two-year evaluation of cool season annual species to determine the best varieties for cover cropping. The centers provide a unique opportunity to evaluate plants in different locations representative of the varying soils, agronomic methods and weather conditions in the U.S. Seven cool season annual cover crop species were identified for comparative evaluations with input from state agronomists and soil heath specialists. Data has been summarized by region and is presented in technical notes available now on the Plant Materials Program cover crop performance and adaptation website.

For additional information on specific species of plants, please see the USDA PLANTS database or contact the nearest Plant Materials Center. For specific information on soils and soil health, please see USDA NRCS soils website.