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Legumes for Fall Planting

Cover Crop Guide

Austrian Winter Peas

Austrian winter peas are a cool-season, annual legume with good nitrogen-fixing capabilities. Austrian winter peas are a low growing, viny legume, which has been shown to fix over 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year under good conditions. It has hollow, slender, and succulent stems, 2-4 feet long. The foliage is pale green and the flowers are colored — usually purple, pink, or reddish. The leaf consists of 1-3 pairs of leaflets and terminal branched tendrils. Pods are 1.5-2.5 inches long with 3-5 round, dark-colored seeds. Seed color is commonly gray with purple or brown mottles.

Berseem Clover

Berseem clover is an annual, non-bloating legume that resembles alfalfa in appearance and can be used as a cover crop, pasture, or hay. Berseem clover is not winterhardy, but can create significant biomass and fixate large amounts of nitrogen due to its rapid establishment and fast growth (1.5 times that of alfalfa). An excellent choice for erosion control and weed suppression, especially when planted with oats.

Crimson Clover

Crimson clover has erect stems, grows quickly, and has larger seeds than the more commonly used red clover. Crimson clover’s primary advantages are rapid growth during cool weather, shade tolerance, and good reseeding potential. Crimson clover can be planted early in the spring or fall for weed control, over seeded in corn at second cultivation, or in soybeans at leaf drop. Because of its shade tolderance and reseeding potential, crimson clover is also effective as a living ground cover in orchards. Crimson clover has been used effectively to suppress weeds when planted in the early fall, following a short-season crop such as potatoes, snap beans, vegetables, or following winter wheat. Planting with a grass such as oats, which is also fast-growing, gives additional weed control in these situations.

Hairy Vetch

Hairy vetch forms ground cover slowly in the fall, but root development continues throughout the winter with substantial biomass production in the spring. For best results, hairy vetch should be in full bloom to allow for peak nitrogen contribution and to mow, roll, or spray for maximum vetch kill. Spring oats or winter grains can also be planted with hairy vetch to act as a protective cover for improved winter survival and increased erosion control. Hairy vetch is an excellent cover crop for nitrogen fixation, erosion control, biomass and weed suppression.

Purple Bounty Hairy Vetch (021-11950)

  • Ability to fix large quantities of nitrogen
  • Winterhardy
  • Provides a weed suppressing mulch for no-till corn and other crops

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