Principles and practices of using cover crops in weed management systems
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Cover crops are plant species that are introduced into crop rotations to provide beneficial services to the agro-ecosystem. Some of the most important environmental services provided by cover crops include soil protection from erosion, capture and prevention of soil nutrient losses, fixation of nitrogen by legumes, increase in soil carbon and associated improvements in soil physical and chemical characteristics, decrease in soil temperature, increase in biological diversity including beneficial organisms, and suppression of weeds and pests (Sustainable Agriculture Network, 1998). This chapter will focus on weed suppression by cover crops, but the need to manage cover crops to optimize the totality of impacts on the ecosystem will be emphasized at the conclusion.