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A cover crop is grown for the protection and enrichment of the
soil. Primarily it can manage soil erosion, fertility, soil quality,
moisture retention, weeds, pests and diseases, as well as
capturing carbon from the atmosphere. By increasing organic
matter soil content they can really benefit future crop output
especially in extremes of wet and dry conditions. Cover crops
provide a more environmentally friendly approach to modern
farming, providing carbon sequestration, with a direct aim in
reducing the use of artificial fertilisers, and are a more
‘organic’ method in controlling soil pests such as nematodes.
It is possible to select a short term duration right up to a long
term crop lasting months or even years. Cover crops can provide
benefits in rotations over a bare fallow. With careful selection
cover crops can also provide supplementary feeding
options for livestock and wildlife. It is important to select an
appropriate cover crop mixture to suit the needs of the farm,
as these can differ greatly providing a wide spectrum of uses.
Cover crops also need to be selected with a view to fitting
farm practice, capabilities, expertise and available equipment.