Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Stoneville, Mississippi » Crop Production Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #395184

Research Project: Development of Productive, Profitable, and Sustainable Crop Production Systems for the Mid-South

Location: Crop Production Systems Research

Title: Cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crop improves soil physico-chemical properties with no influence on soybean (Glycine max L.) root growth parameters

item PINNAMANENI, SRINIVASA - Oak Ridge Institute For Science And Education (ORISE)
item Mubvumba, Partson
item ANAPALLI, SASEENDRAN - US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)
item Reddy, Krishna

Submitted to: Frontiers in Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/19/2022
Publication Date: 8/10/2022
Citation: Pinnamaneni, S.R., Mubvumba, P., Anapalli, S., Reddy, K.N. 2022. Cereal rye cover crop impacts on soybean (Glycine max L.) root growth and soil properties. Frontiers in Soil Science.

Interpretive Summary: Conservation agricultural practices like reduced till or no-till along with cover crops are reported to offer many ecological benefits such as suppression of weeds, reduced soil erosion and nutrients loss, and improved soil physico-chemical parameters such as increased soil organic carbon, reduced bulk density, increased soil aggregate stability and higher saturated hydraulic conductivity. Improved soil health with over crop-based production system may impact positively on summer crop root system. However, previous published reports revealed mixed results. To address this, scientists at the USDA-ARS, Crop Production Systems Research Unit and Sustainable Water Management Research Unit, Stoneville, MS, conducted a 3-yr. field study by planting cereal rye in the fall followed by soybean in the summer during 2018-2021. The results of the study indicated that soil organic carbon increased by 7-13%, soil organic matter by 9-15%, soil total nitrogen by 13-29%, water-stable aggregates by 26-68%, saturated hydraulic conductivity by 5-9% and reduced bulk density by 8% and soil penetration resistance by 14-18% compared to no cover crop plots. However, the improved soil health parameters did not translate into any notable change in root growth of soybean.

Technical Abstract: Planting winter cover crops (CC) in soybean cropping systems offers various environmental benefits besides enhanced productivity. In a three-year study (2018-2021) conducted on a Dundee silt loam, we assessed the impact of introducing rye (Secale cereale L.) CC during the winter fallow period on soil organic carbon (SOC), soil organic matter (SOM), soil total nitrogen (STN), bulk density (BD), saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kfs), soil penetration resistance (SPR), and water-stable aggregates (WSA). Three treatments evaluated were: i) no cover crop (NC), ii) winter rye as CC rolled when green and desiccated after soybean planting (GR), and iii) winter rye CC desiccated and rolled before planting soybean (BR) in a randomized complete block design with six replications. Effects of BR and GR on soybean root growth characteristics (number of roots, root length and root angle) were measured using a CID 600 root scanner. The results showed that CC (both BR and GR) improved SOC by 7 to12.5%, soil organic matter by 9 to15%, STN by 13 to 29%, WSA by 26 to 68%, Kfs by 5 to 9% and reduced BD by 8% and SPR by 14 to18% compared to NC (P<0.05). However, there were no differences between BR and GR treatments. Root characteristics of soybean in the NC, BR and GR treatments were similar. Rye CC fits into the existing soybean production system in the Lower Mississippi Delta with the potential to augment sustainable crop production.