Choice of species

When it comes to classification of cover crops, you can divide the crops in 3 categories: the grassy crops, the leafy crops and the leguminous crops. They all have their qualities!

By making an informed choice this cover crop can help in

  • pest control 

  • increase of soil organic matter 

  • enhance soil quality 

  • reduced erosion 

  • increased water quality 


This websites can help you with the choice of the cover crop: (Dutch)

Brochure 'Functional guideline cover crops with maize' (Dutch)

Protect'eau (French)

Multifunctionality of intercrop crops (French)

Arvalis Choice of species (French)

A more complex choice of species (French)

Fact sheets about the different species (French)

Choosing the composition of your cover crop (French)

Grassy species

Grassy species are real carbon sequesters. They develop a huge amount of biomass (above and under the ground). They can pick up big amounts of nitrogen, but they do that rather slowly. Also, after incorporation in the field in spring, the release of nitrogen goes slowly. 

Leafy species

Leafy species can quickly take up big amounts of nitrogen. Because of their deep roots, this can be done from deeper soil layers compared to the grassy species. Nitrogen release occurs fast after incorporation. The amount of biomass generated, and therefore the amount of soil carbon sequestration, is lower than with grassy species.

Leguminous species

Leguminous species form a separate category. The bacteria that live in their roots, can fix nitrogen from the air. They often have deep roots, which is useful for uptake of nitrogen and other elements from deeper layers. The contribution to organic matter input is limited.


By using mixtures of species of the diverse categories, you can have ‘the best of both worlds’. Combination of grassy and leafy species, for example, turns into a high carbon sequestration and a good uptake of nitrogen.