Submitted to: Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/14/2005
Publication Date: 12/1/2005
Citation: Fageria, N.K., Baligar, V.C., Bailey, B.A. 2005. Role of cover crops in improving soil and row crops productivity. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis. 36:2733-2757.
Technical Abstract: Cover crops play an important role in improving productivity of subsequent row crops by improving soil physical, chemical and biological properties. The objective of this article is to review recent advances in cover crops practices, in the context of potential benefits and drawbacks for annual crop production and sustained soil quality. Desirable attributes of a cover crop are the ability to establish rapidly under less than ideal conditions; provide sufficient dry matter or soil cover, fix atmospheric N; establish a deep root system to facilitate nutrient uptake from lower soil depths; produce organic matter with low residue C/N ratio, and absence of phytoxic or allelopathic effects on subsequent crops. Cover crops can be leguminous or non-leguminous. Leguminous cover crops provide a substantial amount of biologically fixed N to the primary crop, as well as ease of decomposition due to their low C/N ratio. Leguminous cover crops also possess a strong ability to absorb low available nutrients in the soil profile and can help in increasing concentration of plant nutrients in the surface layers of soil. Some non-leguminous cover crops have high N scavenger capacity compared with leguminous crops and sometimes, the growth of these scavenging grass cover crops is limited by N deficiency, growing grass/legume mixtures appears to be the best strategy in obtaining maximum benefits from cover crops.