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. Losing soil to erosion presents a long-term threat to the sustainability of your farm. These types of crops can help you find a balance between nature and production on your farm. Growing non-target crops sometimes seems like a money-losing opportunities, but often the benefits can outweigh the inputs costs of seeds and labour.

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. Non-target 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 crop for you, there are many variables to consider including rotational fit, seeding time and cold-hardiness.

Helpful Links about Cover Crops

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

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