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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECOLOGICALLY-BASED SOIL AND CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

Location: North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory

Title: Evaluation of Cover Crops to Increase Corn Emergence, Yield and Field Trafficability

Authors
item Osborne, Shannon
item Schumacher, Tom - SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIV
item Humburg, Dan - SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIV

Submitted to: Agricultural Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 31, 2008
Publication Date: May 14, 2008
Citation: Osborne, S.L., Schumacher, T.E., Humburg, D.S. 2008. Evaluation of Cover Crops to Increase Corn Emergence, Yield and Field Trafficability. Agricultural Journal. 3:397-400.

Interpretive Summary: No-till soil management can have 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 cover crops on soil conditions prior to corn planting and the impact on corn yield, and quality. Cover crops evaluated include a mixture of grass, legumes, cool and warm season crops. 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.

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 a mixture of grass, legumes, cool and warm season crops. 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 (Zea mays L.). The experiment was conducted in a three year crop rotation (soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] /spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)-cover crop/corn). 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: 9/21/2014
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