Cover crop planting practices determine their performance in the U.S. Corn Belt

Katja Koehler-Cole, Roger W. Elmore, Humberto Blanco-Canqui, Charles A. Francis, Charles A. Shapiro, Christopher A. Proctor, Sabrina J. Ruis, Suat Irmak, Derek M. Heeren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cover crop growing periods in the western U.S. Corn Belt could be extended by planting earlier. We evaluated both pre-harvest broadcast interseeding and post-harvest drilling of the following cover crops: (a) cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) [RYE]; (b) a mix of rye + legumes + brassicas [MIX1], (c) a mix of rye + oat [Avena sativa L.] + legumes + brassicas (MIX2), (d) legumes [LEGU]) and (e) a no cover crop control. These were tested in continuous corn (Zea mays L.) [corn–corn] and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.]–corn systems [soybean–corn] at three sites in Nebraska for their effect on cover crop productivity, soil nutrients, and subsequent corn performance. At the sites with wet fall weather, pre-harvest broadcasting increased cover crop biomass by 90%, to 1.29 Mg ha−1 for RYE and 0.87 Mg ha−1 for MIX1 in soybean–corn, and to 0.56 Mg ha−1 and 0.39 Mg ha−1 in corn–corn, respectively. At the drier site, post-harvest drilling increased biomass of RYE and MIX1 by 95% to 0.80 Mg ha−1 in soybean–corn. Biomass N uptake was highest in pre-harvest RYE and MIX1 at two sites in soybean–corn (35 kg ha−1). RYE and sometimes mixes reduced soil N, but effects on P, K, and soil organic C were inconsistent. In soybean–corn, corn yields decreased by 4% after RYE, and in corn–corn, by 4% after pre-harvest cover crops. Site-specific selection of cover crops and planting practices can increase their performance while minimizing impacts on corn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-543
Number of pages18
JournalAgronomy Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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