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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Title: Cover Crops and Manure: Two Is Better Than One

item Singer, Jeremy
item Rector, Natalie

Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/14/2009
Publication Date: 8/10/2010
Citation: Singer, J.W., Rector, N. 2010. Cover Crops and Manure: Two Is Better Than One. Hoard's Dairyman. p.527.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Cereal rye and manure, when combined, provide benefits to each other resulting in greater overall benefits to livestock producers, their bottom line, and the environment. Cover crops provide many benefits to soil. These include covering the soil to reduce erosion, adding organic matter, and capturing nutrients that may be lost by leaching or in surface runoff. The presence of a rye cover crop reduces the loss of nitrate in tile-drains. These functions are increasingly important when manure is applied to soil. Actively growing roots and topgrowth capture manure-derived nutrients and recycle them for future crops. In turn, the nitrogen from the manure will speed the decomposition of the rye residue and the eventual release of nitrogen and other nutrients to the following crop. Research at the National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa has been focused on identifying the benefits of rye used in conjunction with fall manure application. Manure nutrients aid in rapid decomposition of rye, releasing some of the nutrients in the rye tissue to the future corn crop. Capturing these manure nutrients with rye and keeping them in the root zone ultimately should lower the amount of commercial fertilizer required for crop growth. The exact quantity of nitrogen released by the cover crop and manure may vary from year to year in this type of system, so nutrient management decisions should still be based on soil tests. Cereal rye is a versatile cover crop for livestock-based cropping systems beyond its ability to recycle manure nutrients. It can provide excellent pasture in fall and spring when perennial pastures are least productive and vulnerable to traffic and winter injury. When green chopped in the boot stage, rye can produce 1 to 2 tons of dry matter per acre, preferably for the non-lactating herd.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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