5 Advantages of Cover Cropping Explained

Advantages of cover cropping are; erosion control, fertility enhancement, water conservation, weed, pest and disease control, and sustainable agro-economy.

This article discusses the advantages of cover cropping, as follows;



1). Erosion Control (as one of the Advantages of Cover Cropping)

Erosion control is a very common objective of cover cropping.

The presence of cover crops on any given land, mitigates the risk of both manmade and natural hazards, among which is erosion.

Through cover cropping, the sediments or aggregates that make up the soil are protected from the elements or agents of erosion like wind and water [6].

The roots of cover crops bind soil components firmly together, thereby developing a firm structure that is resistant to physically-induced degradation.

Cover crops facilitate an increase in the rate and scale of reproduction of soil organisms which carry out activities that improve the permeability, infiltration and moisture-retention characteristics of the soil. Such geo-mechanical changes, in addition to the protective covering provided by cover crops, make it difficult for water or wind to erode the soil.

The characteristics of cover crops that make them effective for erosion control include rapid growth, dominant and competitive behavior, and well-developed dense root system.

To some extent, cover cropping also mitigates the risk of flooding by optimizing the infiltration and moisture-retention capacity of soil.

Advantages of Cover Cropping: Erosion Control (Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture 2015)
Advantages of Cover Cropping: Erosion Control (Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture 2015)


2). Fertility Enhancement

Cover cropping is effective for boosting the fertility of soil.

This is because the cultivation of cover crops improves the soil’s ability to function as a carbon sink, a resource-storage medium, and a self-sufficient ecosystem.

Cover cropping mitigates resource depletion in the soil ecosystem by preventing loss of sediments and nutrients through leaching and erosion [1].

At the same time, cover crops enhance nitrogen fixation and biodiversity; both of which contribute to efficient resource recycling and sustainable energy pyramid through natural processes like biodegradation.

Water conservation is another mechanism by which cover cropping boosts soil fertility. Cover crops reduce excessive evaporation, increase infiltration, and enable to soil to retain larger amounts of water.

These influences all lead to increased productivity of the soil, which is essential for both agriculture and overall environmental sustainability.

As they decompose, cover crops are transformed into compost or organic fertilizer, which is a nutrient-rich, sustainable, soil additive [5].

Advantages of Cover Cropping: Fertility Enhancement (Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture 2013 .CC BY 2.0.)
Advantages of Cover Cropping: Fertility Enhancement (Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture 2013 .CC BY 2.0.)


3). Water Conservation (as one of the Advantages of Cover Cropping)

In addition to its role in soil conservation, cover cropping is effective for conserving water resources in the soil.

Cover crops provide a layer of plant biomass that prevents the escape of significant volume of water vapor from soil. This helps mitigate excessive or rapid evaporation, which is a cause of drought, infertility and desertification.

Runoff is also reduced by the trapping of surface water by roots and other parts of cover crops. This allows the soil to absorb more water, and prevents excessive runoff that waste water resources and cause erosion or stormwater pollution.

The effectiveness of cover cropping for water conservation can be optimized by combining the cultivation of cover crops with other conservative or sustainable agricultural practices like mulching and rainwater harvesting.


4). Weed, Pest and Disease Control

Cover cropping is effective as a biological control measure, and can be integrated into sustainable schemes like biodynamic farming, permaculture and organic farming, in a bid to replace the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

In farms, cover crops can establish ecologic resilience by enhancing diversity of crop and microbe species. This type of diversity-based resilience is what makes natural ecosystems sustainable.

Within the same context of biodiversity, cover crops can provide shelter and food for species that exhibit predatory behavior toward farm pests. However, in some cases, this shelter provision may also favor the pests and diseases themselves.

Through rapid growth, high competitiveness and dominant characteristics, cover crops tend to outgrow and out-compete weeds for survival on farms [3].

An example of an effective cover crop for biological control is Brassica [2].


5). Sustainable Agro-economy (as one of the Advantages of Cover Cropping)

Cover cropping is useful for establishing circular economy in the agricultural sector [4]. There are multiple avenues through which this is possible.

The functions of cover crops on farms lead to recycling of natural resources, and increase in crop yield.

By improving soil characteristics (including fertility), cover cropping saves cost on soil optimization measures like the use of chemical fertilizers. Lastly, cover cropping saves cost on environmental remediation measures by protecting the environment.

These effects make it possible to produce consistently without unfavorable influences from environmental degradation and resource depletion.



Advantages of cover cropping are;

1. Erosion Control

2. Fertility Enhancement

3. Water Conservation

4. Weed, Pest and Disease Control

5. Sustainable Agro-economy



1). Aryal, N.; Reba, M.; Straitt, N. L.; Teague, T. G.; Bouldin, J. L.; Dabney, S. (2018). “Impact of cover crop and season on nutrients and sediment in runoff water measured at the edge of fields in the Mississippi Delta of Arkansas.Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 73(1):24-34. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.73.1.24. (Accessed 27 October 2022).

2). Haramoto, E. R.; Gallandt, E. R. (2004). “Brassica cover cropping for weed management: A review.” Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 19(04):187 – 198. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1079/RAFS200490. (Accessed 24 October 2022).

3). Kocira, A.; Staniak, M.; Tomaszewska, M.; Kornas, R.; Cymerman, J.; Panasiewicz, K.; Lipińska, H. (2020). “Legume Cover Crops as One of the Elements of Strategic Weed Management and Soil Quality Improvement. A Review.” Agriculture 10(9):394. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10090394. (Accessed 27 October 2022).

4). Muñoz, J. V.; Mendoza, J. M.; Aznar-Sánchez, J. A.; Schmid, A. G. (2021). “Circular economy implementation in the agricultural sector: Definition, strategies and indicators.” Resources Conservation and Recycling 170(105618):1-15. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.105618. (Accessed 27 October 2022).

5). Shi, J. (2013). “Decomposition and Nutrient Release of Different Cover Crops in Organic Farm Systems.” Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/natresdiss/75/. (Accessed 27 October 2022).

6). Zuazo, V. H.; Rodriguez, C. R. (2008). “Soil-Erosion and Runoff Prevention by Plant Covers: A Review.” Agronomy for Sustainable Development 28(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1051/agro:2007062. (Accessed 27 October 2022).

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