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Typically, a green manure crop is grown for a specific period, and then plowed under and incorporated into the soil. Green manures usually perform several functions, that include soil improvement and soil protection:

  • Leguminous green manures such as clover contain nitrogen-fixing symbiotic bacteria in root nodules that fix atmospheric nitrogen in a form that plants can use.
  • Green manures increase the percentage of organic matter (biomass) in the soil, thereby improving water retention, aeration, and other soil characteristics.
  • The root systems of some varieties of green manure grow deep in the soil and bring up nutrient resources unavailable to shallower-rooted crops.
  • Common cover crop functions of weed suppression and prevention of soil erosion and compaction are often also taken into account when selecting and using green manures.
  • Some green manure crops, when allowed to flower, provide forage for pollinating insects.

Historically, the practice of green manuring can be traced back to the fallow cycle of crop rotation, which was used to allow soils to recover. view more...