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ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Agricultural Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357228

Research Project: Ecologically-Sound Pest, Water and Soil Management Practices for Northern Great Plains Cropping Systems

Location: Agricultural Systems Research

Title: Soil health responses to cover crops in winter wheat-fallow system

item GHIMIRE, RAJAN - New Mexico State University
item GHIMIRE, BINOD - New Mexico State University
item MESBAH, ABDEL - New Mexico State University
item Sainju, Upendra
item IDOWU, OMOLOLU - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/28/2019
Publication Date: 6/6/2019
Citation: Ghimire, R., Ghimire, B., Mesbah, A.O., Sainju, U.M., Idowu, O.J. 2019. Soil health responses to cover crops in winter wheat-fallow system. Agronomy Journal. 3(4):2108-2115.

Interpretive Summary: Cover crops enhance soil health. Cover crop can enhance soil organic matter and quality but short-term impact of cover crops on soil health are lacking. Researchers at ARS, Sidney, MT in collaboration with New Mexico State University found that oat cover crop and its mixture with other cover crops enhanced soil potentially mineralizable carbon and labile carbon as well as organic carbon and total nitrogen compared to pea, canola, hairy vetch, pea + canola, forage radish, and barley. Producers can enhance soil health and carbon and nitrogen storage with oat and its mixture with other cover crops in the southern Great Plains.

Technical Abstract: Cover crops can increase soil C and N storage, but their short-term impact on soil health are lacking. We evaluated the effect of cover crops on soil water content (SWC), potentially mineralizable C (PMC), permanganate oxidizable carbon (POXC), inorganic N and P, and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) yield under a limited-irrigated winter wheat -summer fallow system. Cover crops were pea (Pisum sativum L.), oat (Avena sativa L.), canola (Brassica napus L.), pea + oat [PO], pea + canola [PC], pea + oat + canola [POC], pea + oat + canola + hairy vetch (Vicia villosa L.) + forage radish (Raphanus sativus L.) +barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) [SSM], and a fallow without cover crop.Cover crop biomass was greater with oat, PO, and SSM than pea, canola, and PC. The SWC and inorganic P were lower at wheat harvest and cover crop termination, respectively, than other sampling dates. Soil inorganic N and P was greater with fallow than cover crops at their termination, and PMC and POXC were greater with SSM and oat than other cover crops at wheat harvest, but these parameters varied with cover crop species at other sampling dates. Soil organic C (SOC) and total N (STN) in 2017 were greater with oat than PC. Wheat yield was not affected by cover crops, but was greater in 2017 than 2016. Oat and its mixture with other cover crops may enhance biological soil health by increasing microbial activity and C and N storage due to increased C inputs.