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Ohio State University Extension


Hairy Vetch as a Cover Crop in Ohio

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Sarah Noggle; Educator; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County
Rachel Cochran; Extension Associate, Water Quality; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County

Information gathered from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) was used to compile this summary on how to use hairy vetch as a cover crop in Ohio. For more information, see the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and the Cover Crop Selector Tool found at: green stem with multiple stems growing larger leaflets and tendrils.


  • Looks very similar to common vetch
  • Larger leaflets than common vetch; slightly wider and flatter at the tip
  • Small hairs visible on stem and leaflets
  • Tendrils, purple flowers, taproot, and many leaflets per leaf

Cultural Traits

  • Winter annual
  • Minimum germination temperature: 60 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Reliable establishment window (state average): Mar. 29–Apr. 28; July 24–Sept. 28
  • Climbing growth habit: 3–7 feet
  • Preferred soil pH: 5.5–7.5
Table 1. Rating the traits of cover crop hairy vetch.
Drought tolerance Good
Shade tolerance Good
Low fertility tolerance Very good

Winter survival

  • Great variation in varietal winter hardiness
  • Winter survival also dependent on fall growth


  • Drilled at ½–1½ inches
    • 15–20 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast with shallow incorporation
    • 17–22 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast without incorporation
    • 18–24 lb./acre (pure live seed)

Additional planting information:

  • 16,300 seeds per lb.
  • Inoculation type: pea/vetch.
  • When planting on slopes or using for forage/grazing, increase seeding rate.
  • Broadcasting without incorporation is usually less dependable than drilling or broadcasting with incorporation.
  • Hairy vetch is slow to establish.

Disclaimer: Rules for Financial Assistance Program Recipients
Individuals participating in financial assistance programs are required to follow Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A regarding seeding rates and dates. Failure to do so will jeopardize payments. Appendix A can be found in Ohio’s Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4, Ecological Sciences Tools:


  • Dry matter = 1,800–4,000 lb. per acre, per year
    • Biomass quantity is highly dependent on planting/termination dates and precipitation.
  • Total nitrogen = 90–180 lb. of N per acre (not fertilizer replacement).
    • Nitrogen source is considerable but unpredictable due to many factors that determine biological release.

Additional performance information:

  • Rates very good for early interseeding
  • Tolerates low fertility, wide pH range, and cold or fluctuating winters
  • Grows best on well-drained soils
  • Does not host sugar beet cyst nematode and is a poor host for soybean cyst nematode
  • Alternate host for root lesion and root-knot nematodes
  • Performs well with competition and shading in a mixed stand or interseeding
  • Can exacerbate pea diseases, including black stem fungus
  • Bloat hazard; seed and vegetation potentially poisonous
Table 2. Rating the attributes of cover crop hairy vetch.
Nitrogen source Excellent
Soil builder Very good
Erosion fighter Very good
Weed fighter Very good
Quick growth Good
Lasting residue Good
Grain seed harvest Very good
Cash crop interseed Very good


  • Tillage
    • If terminating with only tillage, multiple passes are often required.
  • Roller crimper
    • Roller crimping is the most difficult/variable termination method.
    • Crimp during reproductive stage (full bloom).
  • Chemical

Additional termination information:

  • Hard seed lasts for years.
  • Follow NRCS guidelines for cover crop termination dates to comply with crop insurance.
Table 3. Potential advantages of cover crop hairy vetch.
Soil Impacts
Subsoiler Good
Frees phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) Good
Compaction fighter Excellent
Disease Good
Allelopathic (produces biochemicals that inhibit weeds) Good
Chokes weeds Very good
Attracts beneficials Excellent
Bears traffic Good
Short windows Good

Potential Disadvantages

Delayed emergence: could be a major problem

Increased weed potential: could be a moderate problem

  • Hard seed may become an issue but can easily be controlled with herbicides.

Increased insects/nematodes: could be a minor problem

Hinders crops: could be a minor problem

  • Do not plant in small-grain cash crop fields; seed contamination decreases value of small grains.

Establishment challenges: occasionally a minor problem

Mature incorporation challenges: could be a minor problem


This publication was adapted with consent from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) with content from the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and Cover Crop Selector Tool ( It was created under a joint project with MCCC to produce customized introductory guidance about cover crops for all member states/provinces. Ohio cover crop recipes can be found at

The Midwest Cover Crops Council ( aims to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest by providing educational/outreach resources and programs, conducting new research, and communicating about cover crops to the public.

Funding for this project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.

Red rectangle with white lettering spelling McKnight Foundation.



Originally posted Apr 6, 2023.