cover crops

Corn management following cereal rye cover crop with strip tillage and starter N fertilization (2018-2020)

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.

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Sarah Carlson (MS sustainable ag and crop production and physiology) was recognized as a leader in Iowa agriculture back in March. Sarah is the strategic initiatives director for Practical Farmers and was one of four recipients of the 2018 Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Leader Awards.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig presented Sarah with the Leadership in Conservation Award during an awards ceremony and dinner on March 6, with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in attendance. The award winners were recognized for their leadership, innovation and commitment to agriculture in Iowa.

Seth Watkins is a Taylor County Iowa farmer taking a new approach. As a land owner involved in the Science-based Trial of Rowcrop Integrated Prairie Strips (STRIPS) since 2012, Seth has implemented a number of conservation practices: rotational grazing, restricted wildlife areas, riparian buffers, ponds, shallow water habitats, integrated pest management, prescribed burning, windbreak restoration, no-till, cover crops, tile, terraces, inter-seeded legumes, prairie restoration (CRP) and late season calving. 

The STRIPS team recently won an Iowa State University College of Agriculture and LIfe Sciences Team Award.

Cover Crops and Nitrogen Retention

Cover crops are an integral component of cropping systems because they grow in the fall and early spring - that is, times when the soil would not have a growing corn or soybean crop. At present, cover crops are grown to benefit soil quality and reduce nitrate loss. In the future, ongoing research at ISU promises to identify additional benefits such as weed suppression. Cover crop acres are growing exponentially.

Gunnar B Dinkla
Graduate Assistant-Research
Fernando_E_Miguez
Dr. Fernando E Miguez
Associate Professor
Dr. Mark A Licht
Assistant Professor
Extension Cropping Systems Specialist

Antonio Mallarino, Matthew Helmers, Richard Cruse, John Sawyer, Dan Jaynes 

Iowa State University agronomists and horticulturalists have joined forces to find the best relationship between row crops and perennial cover crops.

They were awarded a National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant this year as part of the agency’s effort to support research on agricultural systems and production of biomaterials and fuels. Ken Moore, David Laird, and Andy Lenssen, all professors of agronomy, and Shui-zhang Fei, associate professor of horticulture, make up the team.

Photo: Graduate student Allen Chen uses the light box he made to take photos of perennial cover crops in a test field west of Ames in September.

The team is studying turfgrass species to be used as perennial cover crops since they do well in cooler weather, Fei said. They planted several varieties of turf grasses in field trials west of Ames this fall to see which do not compete with corn production while still providing environmental benefits.

Limiting Nitrogen Immobilization in Cover Crop Systems
Funded by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy

Issue: Cover crops have significant potential to improve water quality by limiting erosion when row crops are not growing, and by limiting the loss of nitrogen by leaching. Yet widespread adoption has been limited, as the yield of subsequent-year corn crops may be negatively affected by cover crops. One reason for this is the potential for immobilization of nitrogen from soil organic matter as cover crop residues decompose.

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