Controlling soil erosion with cover crops

Cover crops can be used to impede soil erosion off of fields.

April 1, 2015 - Author: ,

The reasons why farmers use cover crops are as varied as the number of species that can be used as a cover crop. Traditionally cover crops were used for erosion control. Recent water quality concerns has brought the discussion on cover crops and soil erosion back to the forefront.

Cover crops are a great tool that farmers can use to minimize soil movement off of field. Active roots in the soil hold the soil from water erosion while above ground growth shields soil movement from wind erosion. Covering the soil also protects the soil from rainfall splatter. When it rains, water hits the soil at a great impact causing soil to be displaced. The following chart rates cover crop species ability to decrease soil erosion. The rating encompasses both root and plant growth.


Very Good




Annual Ryegrass

Hairy Vetch


Cereal Rye


Red Clover








Berseem Clover

Crimson Clover

Field Pea


White Clover

Chart information taken from Managing Cover Crops Profitably third edition, SARE Handbook Series 9.

For more information or to help decide what cover crop will be best for your farm contact Michigan State University Extension educators Christina Curell, or Paul Gross, More information can also be found at the Midwest Cover Council website.

Tags: agriculture, beef, cover crops, dairy, farm management, field crops, horses, msu extension, organic agriculture, pork, poultry, sheep & goats, vegetables, water quality, western lake erie basin

Michigan State University Michigan State University Close Menu button Menu and Search button Open Close