Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/14/2005
Publication Date: 2/14/2005
Citation: Osborne, S.L., Riedell, W.E., Schumacher, T.E., Humburg, D.S. 2005. Cover crops: The good and the bad. In: Proceedings from South Dakota No-Till Association "No-Till The Next Step," February 14-15, 2005, Pierre, South Dakota.
Technical Abstract: No-till soil management has the potential to preserve soil moisture, decrease soil erosion and increase yield compared to conventional tillage systems. However incorporating cover crops adds an additional management factor that if not managed properly can decrease the following cash crop yield as illustrated in stand establishment and corn yield differences obtained in this experiment. 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). No-till management increased corn yield in 2002 regardless of the cover crop utilized due to extremely dry periods within the growing season. In contrast in 2003 the presence of some cover crops significantly delayed stand establishment but not all had a negative impact on corn yield. Proper management and choice of cover crop species are important considerations when including cover crops into current production systems.