b'COVER CROP CORNERIntercropping and Cover Cropping: How They Work with Plant SynergiesNATURE IS INTELLIGENT. In nature, plants haveproducing poorly, it may be due to low nitrogen so evolved and coevolved without any human assistance.adding more legumes might correct it.Through the soil, microbes, insects, animals, and climate, these plants developed relationships with theirPlant Mix Designenvironment, creating an efficient system of survival.When designing a plant mix, goals are very important, The soils develop signals from the ecosystem we referas is knowing where your soils are health-wise. For to as soil, triggering different plants to grow and thrive. intercropping with a goal of low or no synthetic inputs, One of the keys of intercropping is the use ofan easy button is to grow a grass with a legume like synergetic plantsplants that play nice with each other.oats and peas. To take it to the next level, flax and KEVIN ELMY,Most properly managed native stands consistPhacelia can be added. All species are mycorrhizal is founder of Coverof functional plant groupseach have their ownfungi-friendly, and oat, flax and Phacelia are all Crops Canada. His book Coverecological advantage, so theyll grow in specific areas.relatively low nitrogen users.Cropping inLegumes are dominant in a stand early in the soilAdding a Brassica to a mix would require a higher Western Canada is available throughdevelopmental stages. They provide nitrogen tonitrogen supply rate. Remember, Brassicas are nutrient Friesen Press,the system and once the nitrogen cycle has started,scavengers so will compete with your grasses, non-Amazon, and digitally throughnatural soil-borne nitrogen fixers are established,Brassicas and forbs. Peaola, peas and canola, has been Apple Books,and mycorrhizae fungi are established legumes thatgrown in Western Canada for 40 years and is an easy Kindle, and Google Play. For moremove to background levels. When the natural nitrogenway to grow canola without a large fertilizer invoice. info on Covercycle falters, legumes jump back into the plant mix toSeed size is the other key, unless the plan is to feed Crops Canada visit covercrops.ca produce nitrogen. Once the system is back to normalthe mixture. For selling individual species from the the legumes then slip back to background levels. mix, they need to be able to be separated. The least Brassicas like to grow in disturbed areas withexpensive way to separate is by seed size, but can also high levels of free nutrients, normally in a soil thatsbe done by seed weight density. Before doing any bacteria-dominated. As a rule, theyre competitors inmixes, grain buyers should be contacted to see what the system, tying up nutrients. They require a planttheir grain contamination policy is. thatll feed them, such as a legume. Grasses and forbsMore producers are using a stripper header which in a system dominated by brassicas will struggle to getallows taller species to be used, like Persian clover. Flax nutrients. Brassicas have an acidic root system so relyis another crop where adding lower growing species less on mycorrhizal fungi. helps with suppressing weeds and a legume will help Non-brassica species are a very diverse group, andsupply more nitrogen. Adding a winter cereal along with this includes plants like beets, sunflowers, flax, andsubterranean clover creates ground cover in the flax.buckwheat. Many of the plants in the non-brassicaCare needs to be taken with fall rye if using other group are mycorrhizal fungi-friendly and play nice incereal cash crops. It can overwinter, creating grain mixes. Most crop rotations are missing adding some ofcontamination, plus it produces allelopathy, chemicals these crops into their rotation or blends. which will prevent other plants from growing if it gets There are some inherent issues with some of theestablished before the other plants.species. Sunflowers and flax can be later maturing,When we are looking at mixing plants together, we and buckwheat is very early maturing. Research isneed to think of how and where they occur in nature. In now showing some of these non-Brassica plants aremost cases it is a legume and a grass that thrive. Adding able to control the available boron for some plants,a forb or non-Brassica broadleaf helps with adding so their maturity is sped up or slowed down to matchdiversity both aboveground and within root systems.maturities of other species in the mix. Having a grass species that stays in the vegetative When looking at synergies by growing more thanstage helps to leak root exudates all season long. one functional plant group, one needs to understandBrassicas are nutrient scavengers, so care needs to what each group does. When growing blends, observebe taken when including them as theyll continue to what plants are thriving. If the legumes are very strongaccumulate nutrients competing with the other species.its an indication the nitrogen supply in the soil isCare must be taken to keep plant density ratios to low. As the nitrogen level increases, the legumes losematch what soil can supply. Remember to work with their ecological advantage. Conversely, if grasses arenatures intelligence. SPUDSMART.COM Spring 202257'