Companion crops or companion planting are sometimes known as nurse crops. A companion crop is generally defined as a crop sown with another crop to gain some advantage in yield or crop protection from pests. In forage production, a small grain may be seeded with the forage crop. In the north, for example, a spring grain crop such as oats may be planted with a spring seeding of legumes and grasses. The grain companion crop will:

  1. provide a cash crop, feed pasture, or silage during the establishment year,
  2. reduce soil erosion,
  3. help to control weeds


More generally, the advantages for planting a companion crop include:

  • more forage the first year
  • a financial return the first year
  • rapid soil cover to prevent erosion when planted with a slow growing primary crop
  • suppression of weeds.

But there are disadvantages in planting a companion crop as well. Disadvantages include:

  • competition for water and nutrients which may reduce vigor
  • need to have main crop fill in spaces when companion crop is removed. Otherwise, weeds will.