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This publication discusses production of winter annual cover crops, their benefits and management. Research has shown several important benefits of planting winter annual cover crops, chief among them erosion control, addition of nitrogen (N) to the soil for use by a subsequent crop, removal of nitrogen from the soil to prevent nutrient loading, buildup of soil organic matter and buildup of residue that acts as a mulch for water conservation or retention.
A new group of cover crops for winter and summer use include mustards, oilseed radishes and turnips. When young, these plants resemble turnip greens, are very succulent and have a low C:N ratio, resulting in rapid decomposition when incorporated into the soil. However, if allowed to mature, bolt and flower, they produce a large amount of biomass in a short period of time and become woody, resulting in slower decomposition than when killed at an immature stage.
Adequate sulfur is necessary for crops, but there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for application in North Carolina. Best management practices take sulfur removal and incidental sulfur inputs for the entire crop rotation, soil type and profile depth layers and soil and plant analysis results.