Cover crops, such as barley, are used to prevent soil erosion Photo: Soil-Net Library

Although cover crops provide habitat for insects and small wildlife species, the real benefits are to the soil itself.

Cover crops can:

  • Enhance soil microbial diversity and function
  • Increase soil organic content
  • Improve soil health
  • Improve productivity of target crops
  • Reduce soil nutrient losses
  • Reduce weeds through competition (light, water and nutrients)

Increasing microbial diversity of soils is important in establishing resilience to disease. Cover crops can also improve soil structure, reduce the rate of erosion and prevent soil compaction. There are over 20 suitable cover crops that are used in the Maritimes. To choose the right cover crop for you, there are many variables to consider including rotational fit, seeding time and cold-hardiness.

Helpful Links

Comprehensive guide to using cover crops in Nova Scotia including cover crop descriptions from NSFA and Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN), includes estimated costs per acre of each cover crop

The NSFA has a variety of resources and fact sheets about “Using Crops to Grow Healthy Soils