How Cover Crops Make Healthier Soil

And suck climate-warming greenhouse gases out of the air.

Also read Tom Philpott’s story on no-till, cover-crop farming evangelist David Brandt.

1. After the harvest, the farmer plants a cover crop, which sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere. (Some—like legumes—also enrich the soil with nitrogen.)






2. The cover crop dies, leaving behind organic matter that makes soil more fertile, keeps weeds from growing, and moderates soil temperature.





3. The soil is not tilled before planting cash crops like corn or soybeans so that buried organic matter won’t oxidize CO2, and soil-enriching microbes and worms are preserved.






4. Over time, cover crops create a layer of carbon-rich topsoil (humus) resistant to both drought and erosion.



In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.