From the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) website: "Cover crops slow erosion, improve soil, smother weeds, enhance nutrient and moisture availability, help control many pests and bring a host of other benefits to your farm. At the same time, they can reduce costs, increase profits and even create new sources of income. Managing Cover Crops Profitably explores how and why cover crops work, and provides all the information needed to build cover crops into any farming operation. Along with detailed management information on the most commonly used species—including grasses, grains, brassicas and mustards, and legumes—Managing Cover Crops Profitably offers chapters on the role of cover crops in broader topics such as crop rotations, pests and conservation tillage. It also has appendices on seed suppliers and regional experts.
“This is the best book I have ever read. It uses science to explain complex concepts, lays out options for different systems and climates, and allows innovative farmers to digest the information and make their own intelligent decisions.” -Wolfgang Rougle, Twining Tree Farm, Cottonwood, Calif."
I give this book 10 out of 10 acorns. I learned about it from a video by regenerative agriculturist Gabe Brown. I don't recall which video, but he recommended it highly, so I visited the publisher's website and discovered I could download it as a free PDF. It didn't take long, however, before I knew I needed a hard copy for my homestead library. It's now my go-to book for everything about cover crops
The book is a collection of articles written by a panel of cover crop experts. It is geared toward farmers in the U.S. who are looking for alternatives for weed, pest, and erosion control on their farms. The techniques are applicable for anyone wanting to manage their land in ways that build healthy soil. The emphasis is on no-till, but also offers soil conservation strategies for those who are unable to stop tilling altogether.
The first section is a series of articles spelling out the whys and how-tos of cover cropping. It introduces the reader to the specific benefits of cover crops, how to identify one's goals, and make a plan. For example, reducing pest or disease damage, increasing soil fertility and structure, improving crop yields, preventing soil erosion, conserving soil moisture, etc. Lots of real-life examples are included in this section.
Charts come next. They are one of the strengths of the book, because they organize cover crop information visually. They include best cover crops by region, specific roles played by various cover crop plants, planting information, and charts listing their advantages and disadvantages.
Section two deals with specific information about many of the commonly used cover crops. It starts with non-legumes: annual ryegrass, brassicas, mustards, sorghum-sudangrass, and small grains (barley, buckwheat, oats, rye, and winter wheat). Legumes are next with information specific for various clovers, cowpeas, field peas, vetches, and medics. Regional maps help the reader immediately decide if the plant is a good option for their location. Specifics include types and cultivars, best uses for forage and soil improvement, how to establish and manage (by region), and other species to mix with for good results.
Appendices tell how to test cover crops for chosen applications, a 3rd edition update on some of the newer cover crop species, plus resources for finding seeds, support organizations, and regional experts.
For me, the "profitably" isn't about money profit, but about success in reaching my goal of building healthy, productive soil. The more I study it, the more I realize how it isn't just dirt, it's the foundation of all living things.