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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Cover Crops to Consider

Authors
item Osborne, Shannon
item Riedell, Walter
item Humburg, D - SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIV
item Schumacher, T - SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIV

Submitted to: South Dakota No-Till Association Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 10, 2003
Publication Date: February 4, 2003
Citation: OSBORNE, S.L., RIEDELL, W.E., HUMBURG, D.S., SCHUMACHER, T.E. COVER CROPS TO CONSIDER. South Dakota No-Till Association Proceedings. 2003.

Interpretive Summary: Although no-till soil management has many benefits, including protecting the soil from erosion, improving soil organic matter, and improving soil moisture storage, depending on environmental conditions there could be a number of potential problems. Implementation of no-till soil management in eastern South Dakota can lead to wet and cold soils at the time of planting. Cover crops have the potential to utilize excess soil moisture and improve soil conditions at planting. A field experiment was established to evaluate the impact of 14 different cover crop species as well as no cover crop and conventional tillage on soil conditions prior to corn planting and the impact on corn yield and quality. The experiment was conducted in a three year crop rotation (soybean/spring wheat- cover crop/corn). Cover crops were planted approximately two weeks after spring wheat and allowed to grow until the following spring. Surviving cover crops were killed prior to corn planting. Cover crop species that survived the winter included hairy vetch, red clover, sweet clover, Alsike clover, slender wheatgrass, and winter ryegrass. The presence of these species increased soil strength and reduced soil moisture. Corn yield for plots grown under red clover, winter ryegrass and no cover crop had yield significantly higher than corn grown after conventional tillage, hairy vetch, and slender wheatgrass. This experiment illustrated the ability of cover crops to utilize excess soil moisture and increase soil strength compared to conventional tillage or no cover crop.

Technical Abstract: Although no-till soil management has many benefits, including protecting the soil from erosion, improving soil organic matter, and improving soil moisture storage, depending on environmental conditions there could be a number of potential problems. Implementation of no-till soil management in eastern South Dakota can lead to wet and cold soils at the time of planting. Cover crops have the potential to utilize excess soil moisture and improve soil conditions at planting. A field experiment was established to evaluate the impact of 14 different cover crop species as well as no cover crop and conventional tillage on soil conditions prior to corn planting and the impact on corn yield, and quality. The experimental design was a randomized complete block design with four replications. Cover crops evaluated include: Crimson clover, Alsike clover, red clover, sweet clover, annual ryegrass, winter ryegrass, hairy vetch, Carneval field pea, Austrian winter pea, slender wheat grass, non-dormant alfalfa, sudangrass, buckwheat and barley. All cover crops were planted in early August (following spring wheat harvest) at recommended seeding rates. The following spring all plots were planted to corn. The experiment was conducted in a three year crop rotation (soybean/spring wheat-cover crop/corn). During the course of the experiment, data collection included growing environment (soil temperature, soil bearing strength, bulk density, water content at planting, and vane shear strength), total cover crop biomass, corn emergence, corn growth, and corn grain yield and quality (protein and oil content). Cover crop species that survived the winter included hairy vetch, red clover, sweet clover, Alsike clover, slender wheatgrass, and winter ryegrass. The presence of these species increased soil strength and reduced soil moisture. Corn grown following hairy vetch was the only treatment that exhibited a significant reduction in plant population. Corn yield for plots grown under red clover, winter ryegrass and no cover crop had yield significantly higher than corn grown after conventional tillage, hairy vetch and slender wheatgrass. This experiment illustrated the ability of cover crops to utilize excess soil moisture and increase soil strength compared to conventional tillage or no cover crop.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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