Cover crops are a very effective erosion control and environmental conservation technique. When cover crops
freeze at the beginning of the winter period, the above-ground biomass becomes less effective in protecting
the soil from water erosion, but roots can still play an important role in improving soil strength. However,
information on root properties of common cover crops growing in temperate climates (e.g. Sinapis alba (white
mustard), Phacelia tanacetifoli (phacelia), Lolium perenne (ryegrass), Avena sativa (oats), Secale cereale (rye),
Raphanus sativus subsp. oleiferus (fodder radish)) is very scarce. Therefore, root density distribution with soil
depth and the erosion-reducing effect of these cover crops during concentrated flow erosion were assessed by
conducting root auger measurements and controlled concentrated flow experiments with 0.1 m topsoil
samples. The results indicate that root density of the studied cover crops ranges between 1.02 for phacelia and
2.95 kgm−3 for ryegrass. Cover crops with thick roots (e.g. white mustard and fodder radish) are less effective
than cover crops with fine-branched roots (e.g. ryegrass and rye) in preventing soil losses by concentrated
flow erosion. Moreover, after frost, the erosion-reducing potential of phacelia and oats roots decreased.
Amoeba diagrams, taking into account both below-ground and above-ground plant characteristics, identified
ryegrass, rye, oats and white mustard as the most suitable species for controlling concentrated flow erosion.