Issue: Cover crops are a conservation practice that can have tremendous benefits for improving soil health and reducing nutrient losses. There is limited research available on management practices that provide farmers information to facilitate cover crop adoption and minimize potential yield limiting factors.
Objective: Evaluate the effects of a winter rye cover crop-free zone through the use of strip-tillage and starter fertilizer to improve seedling vigor and eliminate yield drag associated with winter cereal rye. This objective will be reached by elucidating treatment effects on: 1) corn growth and development throughout the growing season; 2) disease, insect and weed incidence, severity, and prevalence; and 3) winter cereal rye biomass growth and nutrient uptake.
Approach: This study will be conducted at the ISU Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Farm (AEA) and one outlying research farm. Experimental treatments will consist of two tillage systems (strip-tillage and no-tillage) and three starter N fertilizer rates. Cover crops will be seeded in the fall into soybean. Cover crops will be terminated 10-14 days ahead of corn planting for all treatments as per current recommendations. Cover crop and corn crop growth and development parameters will be collected throughout the respective life cycles. Corn seedling roots will be evaluated for root rots. Insect incidence and weed density/community notes will be determined.