Sustainable agriculture book chapter 13 cover cropping thumbnail 0

Cover cropping is Fundamental #7. It is the technique of growing plants that protect the soil to conserve topsoil and moisture. It can be  considered a living mulch. Under sowing legumes below existing crops and other companion plants will work well. You get all the advantages of mulching; soil conservation, moisture retention, increased microbial activity, etc., but in addition the canopy which covers and protects the soil is living and dynamic.

Camote or sweet potato, Kang Kong and perennial peanuts cover the topsoil and hold it in place while stopping raindrops from compacting soil. We also use alugbati, or Malabar spinach, to slow run off so that it can penetrate deep down. This may eventually be used as forage, grazed, harvested, composted or used as a green fertilizer. Be sure to pull back the cover crop when starting seedlings. Most plants will compete for nutrients and the established canopy usually wins. The perennial peanut grows right up to our papaya trunk without inhibiting it. However, corn, we have found, needs more space around the seeded area to establish itself.