Cover Crop Legumes
Few legumes match hairy vetch for spring residue production or nitrogen contribution. Widely adapted and winter hardy, hairy vetch is a top N provider, contributing from 120 to 150 lbs N/A. Hairy Vetch grows slowly in fall, but root development continues through winter, leading to vigorous spring growth helping it outcompete weeds. An adequate stand of hairy vetch can replace all or most N fertilizer needs for late-planted crops. Hairy vetch improves topsoil tilth, creating a loose and friable soil structure. Vetch doesn’t build up long-term soil organic matter due to its tendency to break down completely. When planted together, grain rye/hairy vetch mixtures mingle and moderate the effects of each crop. The result is a “hybrid” cover crop that takes up and holds excess soil nitrate, fixes N, stops erosion, smothers weeds in spring.
Double Ought Peas
Double Ought Peas are a blend of Whistler Winter Peas and Icicle Peas creating a dual-purpose pea that mixes well with cereals and grasses to provide fall foliage when planted after the hottest days of summer. When planted in the fall they add great forage quality to spring harvested forage. Double ought peas are winter hardy and provide nitrogen fixation, fast germination, weed suppression, and good biomass production.
Crimson Clover with its rapid, robust growth, crimson clover provides early spring nitrogen for full season crops. Good nitrogen fixation makes crimson an excellent break crop for continuous corn producers. Crimson clover adds to the soil organic N pool by scavenging mineralized N and by normal legume N fixation. Crimson clover has a simple taproot making it easy to kill mechanically or with chemicals.
A fast-growing summer annual, berseem clover is a heavy N producer and the least winter hardy of all true annual clovers. This, plus an active root system and abundant biomass, makes it an ideal winterkilled cover before corn or other nitrogen demanding crops.
Yellow Blossom Sweet Clover
Sweet clover has a determinate taproot, with the ability to affix over 100# of N/A. Sweet clover is the most drought-tolerant of forage legumes, is quite winter-hardy, and can extract and then release phosphorus, potassium and other micronutrients that are otherwise unavailable to crops. Sweet clover loosens soil structure, creates organic matter, and produces better soil tilth.