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Cornell University

Cover Crop Guide for NY Growers

Dr. Thomas Björkman, Horticulture Section, Cornell AgriTech

Why Cover Crops?

Why use cover crops in vegetable rotations? Vegetable production involves many practices that compromise soil health, and therefore limit productivity. New York soils are less forgiving of such practices than many other regions. Therefore, leading vegetable growers want to overcome this barrier to success with practices that maintain soil health. Some of the management goals for which farmers use cover crops include:

    • Suppressing weeds
    • Protecting soil from rain or runoff
    • Improving soil aggregate stability
    • Reducing surface crusting
    • Adding active organic matter to soil
    • Breaking hardpan
    • Fixing nitrogen
    • Scavenging soil nitrogen
    • Suppressing soil diseases and pests

This website is part of a project that enables growers to use a broader range of cover crops to improve soil health by biological means. It will complement the chemical (fungicide) and physical (tillage) methods that are being developed by our colleagues. It will also take advantage of the Cornell Soil Health Team’s new diagnostic tool for determining which aspects of soil health need improvement. Our goal is to provide a key component of an integrated management recommendation for growers.