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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #329354

Research Project: Cropping Systems for Enhanced Sustainability and Environmental Quality in the Upper Midwest

Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Title: Effects of cover crop presence, cover crop species selection, and fungicide seed treatment on corn seedling growth

Author
item Schenck, Lara - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item Bakker, Matthew
item Moorman, Thomas - Tom
item Kaspar, Thomas - Tom

Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/26/2017
Publication Date: 7/11/2017
Citation: Schenck, L.A., Bakker, M.G., Moorman, T.B., Kaspar, T.C. 2017. Effects of cover crop presence, cover crop species selection, and fungicide seed treatment on corn seedling growth. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742170517000345.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742170517000345

Interpretive Summary: Cover crops offer erosion protection as well as soil and environmental quality benefits. However, they can occasionally have negative impacts on the yield of a following grain crop, which discourages broader adoption and adds substantial cost to the practice of cover cropping. We performed a series of experiments in a controlled environment setting to assess the response of corn seedlings to the presence and identity of cover crops that were terminated with herbicide prior to corn planting. Our results indicate that under cool and wet conditions, cereal rye, the dominant cover crop species in the upper Midwest, reduces corn seedling growth performance and elevates corn seedling disease. Chemical seed treatment had limited efficacy in preventing these effects. However, hairy vetch and canola cover crops had fewer negative impacts on corn seedlings compared to cereal rye. Thus, to expand the practice of cover cropping before corn, it should become a research priority to develop alternative cover crop species that are able to match the conservation and environmental quality benefits of cereal rye, while avoiding the potential for negative impacts on corn seedlings when environmental conditions are suitable for disease development.

Technical Abstract: Cover crops offer erosion protection as well as soil and environmental quality benefits. However, they can occasionally have negative impacts on the yield of a following grain crop, which discourages broader adoption and adds substantial cost to the practice of cover cropping. We performed a series of experiments in a controlled environment setting to assess the response of corn seedlings to the presence and identity of cover crops that were terminated with herbicide prior to corn planting. Our results indicate that under cool and wet conditions, cereal rye, the dominant cover crop species in the upper Midwest, reduces corn seedling growth performance and elevates corn seedling disease. Chemical seed treatment had limited efficacy in preventing these effects. However, hairy vetch and canola cover crops had fewer negative impacts on corn seedlings compared to cereal rye. Thus, to expand the practice of cover cropping before corn, it should become a research priority to develop alternative cover crop species that are able to match the conservation and environmental quality benefits of cereal rye, while avoiding the potential for negative impacts on corn seedlings when environmental conditions are suitable for disease development.