The establishment of a cover crop between rows of trees combined with a herbicide treatment to remove vegetation leaving a bare circle beneath each tree is practiced by many producers. A variety of clover is the typical choice of cover crops. Many varieties are available and the best one (or mixtures) for your area depends on soil type and climate. Tibbee Crimson, Bigbee Berseem, and Hairy Vetch have been used effectively in some areas but there are dozens of others to consider as well.
The county agent in your area will be the best first contact to determine which cover crop will best suit your needs.
Advantages of a legume cover crop are:
1. Providing vegetative cover to reduce erosion especially through the spring
2. Providing habitat for natural enemies during the spring
3. Returning nitrogen to the soil where legumes are used
4. Reducing competition for nutrients and water during summer months when the legume cover crop goes dormant
Disadvantages of a legume cover crop are:
1. Investment to identify the best cover crop
2. Establish and maintain the orchard floor
3. Grazing is still possible but precautions must be taken to prevent bloating
4. Cycling of cattle on and off the orchard varies compared to grass cover