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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #306400

Research Project: Sustainable Production, Profit, and Environmental Stewardship through Conservation Systems

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Timing of cover crop termination: Management considerations for the Southeast

Author
item Balkcom, Kipling
item Duzy, Leah
item Kornecki, Ted
item Price, Andrew

Submitted to: Crop, Forage & Turfgrass Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/4/2015
Publication Date: 1/8/2016
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/62371
Citation: Balkcom, K.S., Duzy, L.M., Kornecki, T.S., Price, A.J. 2016. Timing of cover crop termination: Management considerations for the Southeast. Crop, Forage & Turfgrass Management. 1:2015-0161. https://doi.org/10.2134/cftm2015.0161.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2134/cftm2015.0161

Interpretive Summary: Conservation tillage combined with high residue cover crops defines a conservation system that is designed to increase productivity and improve soil quality. Cover crops are a critical part of these systems that maintain and/or improve soil quality across the Southeast. The timing of cover crop termination is one important management consideration growers must consider on a site- and situation-specific basis when adopting a conservation system. Cover crops terminated too early in the season diminish associated soil quality and crop production benefits, while termination times delayed until closer to cash crop planting dates maximize soil quality and crop production benefits. However, delayed termination times increase risk associated with crop emergence, particularly in dryland conditions. ARS scientists at the National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, AL describe how management considerations that include the cover crop growing season, soil moisture, soil temperature, N management, alleopathy/weed suppressive potential, and equipment each affect cover crop termination timing. Growers that consider each of these management considerations with respect to cover crop termination can successfully use cover crops to enhance crop productivity, while minimizing risk to their cash crops.

Technical Abstract: Conservation tillage combined with high residue cover crops make up the two components that define a conservation system designed to increase productivity and improve soil quality. Cover crops are an important part of these systems that maintain and/or improve soil quality. Cover crop termination timing is one important management consideration growers must consider on a site- and situation-specific basis when adopting a conservation system. Cover crops terminated too early in the season diminish associated soil quality and crop production benefits, while delaying termination until closer to cash crop planting dates maximizes soil quality and crop production benefits. However, delaying termination increases risk associated with crop emergence, particularly in dryland conditions. Management considerations that include the cover crop growing season, soil moisture, soil temperature, nitrogen (N) management, alleopathy/weed suppressive potential, and equipment each affect cover crop termination timing. Growers that consider each of these management considerations with respect to timing of cover crop termination can successfully use cover crops to enhance crop productivity, while minimizing risk to cash crop establishment.