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Saving Costs with Cover Crops

Interesting research from the USDA. An agricultural researcher in Alabama planted rye as a cover crop for cotton, and then killed the rye and planted cotton in a single pass (as opposed to a delayed pass).

The single pass method showed greater soil fertility and resulted in long-term savings – so if you’re not using your extra soil for anything, plant something simple (like beans) to keep it healthy.

I would like to see a follow up on this research though – see if it’s cost effective in indoor growing scenarios.

Your thoughts?


Cover crops are a standard in any organic or sustainable agricultural system and have been used for decades/centuries. Legumes (nitrogen fixing) and annual grasses (organic matter + mychorizzae) are the most common. Mixed cover crops will add significantly to soil health and organic content. The more organic content, the healthier the soil food web is.


Would these cover crops be different than plants used to keep harmful insects away?


They can include them, although in this context the cover crops are tilled or plowed back into the soil before planting the next crop. A cover crop keeps the soil healthy in between main crops. You can also use cover crops as living mulch with a crop - for example white clover and other legumes work well as a low groundcover, they fix nitrogen in the soil and keep the moisture in the soil better. You could also integrate more specific plants into the mix to attract and support specific beneficial insects.


In my experience, not saying this is the case every time, but if you have pests in your indoor grow or greenhouse, a cover crop is yet another source of food and hiding spot for them. I can definitely see this being much more useful and less problematic in the field.


I can’t really seeing it working in an Indoor application either. Maybe if you had permanent style beds that were built with a strong soil food web focus. But the balance and complexity would be harder to manage in an indoor setting. Even a greenhouse is a challenge. Cover crops are great for field applications and should be utilized a lot more that they are. Cover cropping, no-till, rotational grazing are all key components of building a really healthy and sustainable farm and soil ecosystem.


hunter, I have seen any vegetation is good. rotate and till. itll always work out nice and sustainable. I am lookin for good research myself. but just practice the soil will come together


In the field of classical production of hemp, winter rye was used in more southern parts of the country, where manure spreading worked well as a nitrogen source, but organics was a bigger limitation in high clay soils. Other crops were used in in more northern climates where nitrogen metabolism in the soil was a more limiting issue. I will find some extension reports from the WW2 years. Just FYI some maybe citations only as these reports where often removed from many University libraries in the 1960’s. :tired_face:

Anyone live in Kansas City Mo? The Linda Hall Science Library has a full collection of the WW2 extension publications.

The National Agricultural Library in Beltsville MD, may finally have some of these online.

I will call my favorite horticulture book dealer.