Cereal Grains as Nutrient Scavengers
The best cover crops to use for nitrate conservation are those that quickly form deep extensive root systems shortly after the former crop is terminated or harvested. Perhaps the most valuable attribute that rye provides is the ability to scavenge excessive soil nitrogen and other nutrients left by the previous crop. The rye is able to recycle these nutrients through the winter to be utilized by the following spring crop. This reduces leaching of soil nutrients into the ground water supply and decreases the need of additional fertilizers. Recycling these left over nutrients benefits the environment and also helps lower future fertilizer costs. Rye is one of the few plants capable of scavenging nitrogen and then re-releasing it. Other plants consume the nutrients for their own use.