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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Mycology and Nematology Genetic Diversity and Biology Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #336315

Title: Influence of cover crops on arthropods, free-living nematodes, and yield in a succeeding no-till soybean crop

item LESLIE, ALAN - University Of Maryland
item WANG, KOON-HUI - University Of Hawaii
item Meyer, Susan
item MARRAHATTA, SHARAD - University Of Hawaii
item HOOKS, CERRUTI - University Of Maryland

Submitted to: Applied Soil Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/10/2017
Publication Date: 9/1/2017
Citation: Leslie, A.W., Wang, K., Meyer, S.L., Marrahatta, S., Hooks, C.R. 2017. Influence of cover crops on arthropods, free-living nematodes, and yield in a succeeding no-till soybean crop. Applied Soil Ecology. 117-118:21-31.

Interpretive Summary: Incorporation of fall-planted cover crops in no-till field crop rotations has become more popular across the U.S. for suppressing weeds and enhancing environmental stewardship, but the impacts on the beneficial and pest insects and on nematodes (microscopic worms) in these fields are unknown. Therefore, this research investigated the effects of barley, Austrian winter pea, a mixture of the crops, and a bare-ground control on insects and nematodes. Beneficial free-living nematodes were sampled to determine how the cover crops influenced the soil food web, and samples were taken from the upper plant parts to determine effects on aboveground pest and beneficial insects. In general, cover crops had a stronger influence on the below-ground community, indicating improved soil health, but results varied over time within seasons and between study years. This work is important for determining the effects of these cover crops on soil and soybean plant health in no-till crop rotations, and the results will be used by researchers for establishing efficacious methods for improving soil and plant health.

Technical Abstract: Production practices that incorporate fall-planted cover crops into no-till agronomic crop rotations have become increasingly popular across the Northeastern United States for weed suppression and enhancing environmental stewardship. Field experiments were conducted in 2011 and 2012 to investigate effects of rotating cereal (barley, Hordeum vulgare), legume (Austrian winter pea, Pisum sativum subsp. arvense), cereal/legume cover crop mixture, and a fallow (bare-ground) control on above- and belowground fauna in a succeeding soybean crop. Free-living nematodes and soybean foliar arthropods were sampled to determine effects of cover crops on soil food web structure and complexity, and herbivorous and beneficial arthropods, respectively. In general, cover crops had a stronger influence on the below- than aboveground fauna. There was not a consistent positive effect of cover crops on beneficial foliar arthropods or on soybean yield. Cover crops increased the soil food web structure and complexity as determined by indices of nematode functional guilds. Different cover crop types influenced the free-living nematode community variously within the growing season and between study years. Probable causes for differences encountered among cover crop treatments and years are discussed.