Cover Crops/Rotations

Cover Crops at the Kerr Center

The bioextensive system in place on the Cannon Horticulture plots keeps half the ground in cover crops at any given time.  It’s meant to keep weeds in check and soil healthy – and it works.


Rotation Plan:

Summer cover crops on much of the acreage help suppress weeds and manage soil sustainably.



Three half-acre plots in rotation, with a fourth half-acre plot used for testing equipment and other purposes.


2011 – present:

4-field system includes all four plots part of a single planned rotation.

Growing mulch on-farm

  • reduces weed introductions and possible pesticide contamination
  • recycles nutrients on-farm

The mulches are grown primarily on the four fields and also in buffer zones.

Mulches grown in-field can be used in place in organic no-till.



The four-field rotation controls a wide range of crop pests and diseases.

  • Summer crops = crops planted in late spring and early summer (tomatoes, okra, corn, sweet potatoes, etc.)
  • Fall crops = crops requiring hotter planting weather (peanuts, southern peas, etc.) and crops planted late for fall harvest (after July 1: squash, pumpkins, etc.)

Segregating crops into these two groups ensures that timing of tillage and mowing varies over time on every plot. This aids in long-term weed management.

The current plan does not include early spring-planted crops due to difficulties working fields after wet weather, as normal in winter/early spring.



Rotating crop plantings within fields in effect creates an eight-year rotation. This is useful in controlling some especially persistent diseases.

Related Publications

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Cover Crops as Beneficial Insect Habitats

This publication outlines thoughts on, and experiences with, using cover crops as beneficial insect habitat in organic farming.

Cover Crops for Soil Improvement in Crops

General overview of the benefits, considerations, and management of cover crops, including tables of planting and management information for both warm- and cool-season cover crops

Elements of Organic Farming: Putting Your System Together

This presentation gives an extensive overview of setting up an organic farming system.

Heirloom Variety Trial Report 2011: Organic No-Till Pumpkin Demonstration

This report presents the results of our 2012 no-till organic pumpkin/warm season cover crop trial.

Horticulture Main Demonstration Plot Scheme

This handout maps the Cannon Horticulture Plots, as well as the field within them where the 2013 warm-season cover crop trial was conducted.

How We Converted Bermuda Pasture to Organic Vegetables

This fact sheet describes how to eliminate bermudagrass from future vegetable fields using a sorghum-sudangrass cover crop.

Low-Till Vegetable Production: Cover Crops for Oklahoma

Rationale and preliminary results for using cover crops killed in place in raised beds as a low-till market vegetable production system

Market Farming with Rotations and Cover Crops: An Organic Bio-Extensive System

This report outlines how to control grasses and weeds, and build soil life, health, and fertility organically, using cover crops and rotations.

Organic Bio-Extensive Management Revisited

This report recounts the lessons learned from nine years of organic management of the Cannon Horticulture plots.

Rotations, Cover Crops, and Green Fallow on the Cannon Horticulture Project: A 2010 Status Report

This report outlines the “bio-extensive” approach to fertility and weed management used on the Cannon Horticulture Plots.