Abstract The occupation of sandy soils in Brazil has occurred with poor adoption of management technology, which has caused its degradation. The recovery of organic matter, particularly when growing annual plants and cover crops, with mulch residue allows the maintenance of the productive potential of these soils. Thus, the shoot dry mass production (SDMP) of winter cover crops was evaluated in an Ultisol under no-tillage system and in rotation with soybean and maize using 0, 2, 4 and 8 t ha-1 year-1 of poultry litter, mineral fertilizer exclusively and 2 t ha-1 year-1 of poultry litter associated with a half-dose of mineral fertilizer. The experimental design included randomized blocks with four replicates. The use of poultry litter increased the SDMP of the cover crops; the production was relatively high when high doses of poultry litter were applied; on the other hand, the yield of SDMP and grain was limited by the exclusive use of mineral fertilizer. Organic matter and nutrient status improvement by cover crops were one of the reasons for the increase in soybean and maize grain yields.