In situ water infiltration: influence of cover crops after growth termination

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $299,995.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipients: Middle Tennessee State University; University of Kentucky; Auburn University
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Samuel Haruna
Middle Tennessee State University
Dr. Song Cui
Middle Tennessee State University
Dr. Audrey Gamble
Auburn University
Dr. Seockmo Ku
Middle Tennessee State University
Dr. Chaney Mosley
Middle Tennessee State University
Dr. Edwin Ritchey
University of Kentucky
Cover crops (CCs) are known to influence water infiltration just prior to termination, but their effects on water infiltration over time are less known. This study investigated the influence of CCs on in situ water infiltration just prior to CC termination (during April) and again 2 mo after CC termination (during June). The multi-species mixture of CCs used included hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth.), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), winter peas (Lathyrus hirsutus L.), oats (Avena sativa L.), triticale (Triticale hexaploide Lart.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), and flax (Linum usitatissimum L.). Infiltration rates were measured using double-ring infiltrometers during April and June. The physically based Parlange and Green-Ampt models were fitted to measured infiltration data. Cumulative infiltration was 52% higher in April and 68% higher in June under CC compared with no cover crop (NC) management. During April, the Parlange model–estimated saturated hydraulic conductivity parameter (Kdr) was 245% higher under CC compared with NC management. During the same sample period, the Green-Ampt–estimated Kdr parameter was 383% higher under CC compared with NC management. The higher sorptivity parameter and lower antecedent water content under CC compared with NC management during both measurement periods suggest that CCs can significantly improve water infiltration into the soil, and this effect can last for up to 2 mo after CC termination.
Peer-reviewed Journal Article
Samuel Haruna, Middle Tennessee State University
Robert Eichas, Middle Tennessee State University
Olivia Peters, Middle Tennessee State University
Alaina Farmer, Middle Tennessee State University
Devin Lackey, Middle Tennessee State University
Julia Nichols, Middle Tennessee State University
Wyatt Peterson, Middle Tennessee State University
Neil Slone, Middle Tennessee State University
Target audiences:
Farmers/Ranchers; Educators; Researchers
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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.