Using perennial groundcovers for improved soil and nutrient retention in corn/soy production

Progress report for ONC22-104

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2022: $39,691.36
Projected End Date: 08/31/2024
Grant Recipient: The Land Institute
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Brandon Schlautman
The Land Institute
Expand All

Project Information


Tillage-based corn-soy rotations are the dominant cropping system and represent the major land-use type throughout the Big Blue/Little Blue River watershed in Kansas and Nebraska. The amount of tillage, coupled with relatively high rainfall amounts and intensities, leads to significant soil and nutrient loss to runoff and erosion. Continued soil and nutrient loss to erosion and runoff threatens long-term farm productivity and impairs the quality of surface and subsurface water for human consumption and recreational activities throughout the watershed. Perennial groundcovers (PGC), also known as perennial cover crops, may provide a sustainable alternative to tillage-based production systems and may prove to be more resilient and cost-effective than winter annual cover crops.

We plan to plant kentucky bluegrass and kura clover PGC at three farms in the Big Blue/Little Blue watershed and to collect economic and soil health data. Our research addresses the questions: “Can corn-soy planted into PGC be profitable and a pathway to ecological intensification in the watershed?” and “What barriers to adoption require future research and innovation?” All researchers and farmers will collaborate to introduce knowledge about PGC and our project to the watershed by sharing findings at field days, on social media, and at extension meetings.

Project Objectives:

PGC research: Determine the agroecological viability of corn/soy planted into kentucky bluegrass and kura clover perennial groundcovers under different farming strategies in Kansas and Nebraska.

  • Soil Health: Evaluate effects of PGC on soil health and carbon sequestration compared to conventional practices. 
  • Economic Analysis: Compare productivity and profitability under different PGC management strategies - kura clover PGC, kentucky bluegrass PGC, and conventional management.

PGC Outreach

  • Build local stakeholder awareness and engagement around PGC.
  • Host field days in KS and NE to engage with the local community about PGC.
  • Publish our findings on PGC profitability and soil health.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info


Materials and methods:

Perennial cover crop plots of two different species - Aberlasting Clover or Sandberg Bluegrass - were planted on producer farms in Nebraska and Kansas. Each producer had 2x 2 acre plots of each species replicated on their farm. Using a drone, the seed was flown on into either standing corn or soybeans on September 7, 2022. Aberlasting clover was seeded at 12.5lb per acre, and Sandberg Bluegrass 'High Plains' was seeded at 10lb per acre.

Research results and discussion:

No data has been collected from these trials to date. Fall 2022 was incredibly dry in both Nebraska and Kansas and we did not observe any perennial cover crop emergence.  These fields will be reestablished in spring 2023 using a drill.

Participation Summary
4 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

200 Farmers participated
19 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

No field days were conducted in 2022 relevant to this project. PI Brandon Schlautman gave presentations about perennial cover crops at the PFI annual conference and at the Regen Organic Summit conference.

Information Products

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.