cover crop nutrition

Andy Clark aclark at
Fri Oct 20 16:57:18 EDT 2000

Dear artfarmers and marketfarmers:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: artfarmers [mailto:akbjn at]

> I live in a high rainfall area and am converting from chemical to
> organic farming and I am getting an adequate crop from planting  green
> beans and soy beans ( edamame) and following with a cover crop.  After
> the cover crop I follow with a short crop of greens and radish.  With
> this rotation will I need to add minerals or will alternating with a
> cover crop provide adequate nutrition.  Will I accumulate too much
> nitrogen by covercroppping after each crop. I hope to get two 
> rotations
> a year.

I want first to let everyone know that I am not in the habit of spamming
listservs with information about books for sale.  I am, however, very proud
of the books being produced by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN).
They are written by specialists and can answer a lot of your questions.  SAN
is the national outreach arm of the USDA SARE program.  

If you haven't heard about SARE, in particular the grants we give to
farmers, you may want to check it out.  See or contact
me if you want further information.  

As a bit more of an introduction, I am the coordinator of the Sustainable
Agriculture Network.  SAN produces information about sustainable agriculture
for farmers and educators.  Most of our information is free, in print or on
the web, with the exception of the 5 or 6 books that we sell in order to
generate revenue to produce more information.  We actually couldn't stay in
business as a bookseller if we weren't funded by the USDA.  We price our
books to recover printing costs, not full development costs.  

Having pointed you earlier today to our soils book, Building Soils for
Better Crops, which also has quite a bit of cover crop information
integrated into many of its chapters--for cover crops should play a role in
most sustainable farming systems--I now point you to our book on cover

Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 2nd Edition.  Published in 1998, it sells
for $19 plus s/h.

You can actually see a couple of excerpted chapters from this 212-page book
on the web at  For example, the full chapter on
cereal rye is posted there.

If artfarmer lives in Hawaii, I will apologize that we knew we were
short-changing this book on tropical cover crops, but could not afford to do
anything different at the time. 

Artfarmers' question about minerals and nitrogen really needs to be
addressed in the larger context of what else is being done to build soil on
the farm.  Are there other sources of nitrogen?  What organic inputs will be
added, such as compost and manures?  

I assume you are using legume cover crops, as they are the only ones to add
nitrogen.  Have you considered cover crop mixtures of legumes and grasses?
Such mixtures have an amazing ability to respond to the the nitrogen content
of your soil, scavenging excess nitrogen if present, and/or fixing nitrogen
for the next crop.  In your high rainfall area, you may want to be thinking
about leaching of N.  Grasses help with that problem.  Mixtures complicate
cover crop management, however.  See the excerpt: Grass/Legume Mixtures on
the web at

Now a plug for our free bulletins.  Please see, scroll down the page to our free on-line
publications, available in .html or in .pdf (Adobe).

        A Whole-Farm Approach to Managing Pests 
        Marketing Strategies for Farmers and Ranchers 
        How to Conduct Research on Your Farm or Ranch
        Diversify Crops to Boost Profits and Stewardship   
        Exploring Sustainability in Agriculture 
        Profitable DAIRY OPTIONS 

National SARE Reports 

        SARE 2000 Project Highlights 
        SARE 1999 Project Highlights 
        SARE 1998 Project Highlights 
        SARE 1997 Project Highlights 
        SARE 1996 Project Highlights 

To order Managing Cover Crops Profitably, make your check or purchase order
($19 + s/h) payable to Sustainable Agriculture Publications and mail to:

          Sustainable Agriculture Publications
          Hills Building, Room 10
          University of Vermont
          Burlington, VT 05405-0082

     Add $3.95 s/h for first book and $0.95 for each additional book up to
9. For s/h charges on 10 or more books, please call (802) 656-0484. For each
book sent outside of North America, add $6.00 for the first book and $2.50
for each additional book. 

     Please allow 3 to 5 weeks for delivery. 

Hoping this information helps your farming operation...

Andy Clark, Ph.D.
SAN Coordinator
c/o AFSIC, Room 304
National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Ave.
Beltsville, MD  20705-2351
PH:  301-504-6425
FAX: 301-504-6409
san at


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