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Cover Crop Calculator

Cover Crop Calculator

This soil health calculator allows users to estimate soil property changes that can result when growing winter cover crops

Instructions for use

  • Select climate type
  • Select soil texture group
  • Select cash crop (for monocultures) or crop rotation
  • Select the desired cover crop species or mixture
  • Select desired output parameters
  • Click Calculate

cover crop photo

Note: This Soil Health Calculator provides estimates based on overall average values of measurements reported in more than 500 studies. These studies represent a range of cropping systems and times since implementation of winter cover crops. Therefore, actual results will likely vary.


Enter climate here:
If you don't know your climate, please click here

Soil Texture

Soil textures are grouped based on the Cornell Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health (CASH) framework.
  • Coarse: sand, loamy sand, sandy loam
  • Medium: loam, silt loam, silt, sandy clay loam
  • Fine: clay loam, silty clay loam, sandy clay, silty clay, and clay

Enter soil texture here:

If soil type is unknown, please visit

Cash Crop

Cash crops are grouped into the following categories:
  • Monocultures: corn; soybean; wheat; vegetables
  • Rotations: corn-soybean; corn-soybean-wheat
  • Other (monocultures or rotations)

Select the cash crop type:

Cover Crop

Cover crop types are grouped into the following categories:
  • Grasses: examples include cereal rye, barley, wheat
  • Legumes: examples include hairy vetch, crimson or red clover, winter pea
  • Other: single-species cover including brassicas (e.g., rapeseed, radish) and sunflowers
  • Multi-species mixtures

Select the cover crop type:



Average change (%)

Cash crop yield for the season following winter cover crops.
Positive (+) values mean that on average the cash crop will have a higher yield Cash crop yield
Mass of soil particles within a given volume.
Negative (-) values are associated with more pore space and less compaction Bulk density
Organic matter associated carbon in soil.
Positive (+) values are associated with greater soil water holding capacity and better structure Soil organic carbon
Amount of nitrogen in the soil, including inorganic and organic forms
Positive (+) values mean that less inorganic nitrogen may be required for the cash crop(s) Nitrogen
Ability of soil aggregates to hold together during disturbances such as rain.
Positive (+) values indicate greater stability and more resistance to erosion and crusting Aggregate stability
Rate at which water can enter into the soil.
Positive (+) values indicate that soil will absorb more water and have less overland flow during rain Infiltration rates
Saturated hydraulic conductivity, which controls the rate of water movement through soil.
Positive (+) values indicate that water will move with less resistance into and through soil Ks
Movement and/or loss of soil due to wind or rain.
Negative (-) values mean that less soil is affected by erosion Erosion
Water that ponds up on the soil surface and moves as overland flow.
Negative (-) values means less overland flow, meaning less erosion and greater replenishment of soil water Runoff
Water that drains below the root zone.
Negative (-) values mean less leaching, which can reduce loss of fertilizers and herbicides/pesticides from soil Leaching
Biomass associated with weeds during the following cash crop growing season.
Negative (-) values mean that fewer weeds were found in the field after cover crops Weeds
Carbon associated with soil microbes.
Positive (+) values are associated with beneficial biological functions and more plant available carbon Microbial biomass C
Nitrogen associated with soil microbes.
Positive (+) values are associated with beneficial biological functions and more plant available nitrogen Microbial biomass N

Click on the triangles above to see more information, including how to interpret each parameter