Corn silage Production with Kura Clover Living Mulch and Winter Rye Cover Crop; Soil Erosion, Nutrient Runoff, and Soil Physical Properties

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,992.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsn-Madison
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Ken Albrecht
University of Wisconsn-Madison

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: catch crops, continuous cropping, cover crops, double cropping, intercropping, multiple cropping, no-till, nutrient cycling
  • Pest Management: mulches - living
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Corn silage is widely used as a forage crop in the dairy industry in Wisconsin. Because the entire plant is removed, very little residue remains to shelter the soil after harvest, even in no-till cropping systems. This can result in damage to soil physical properties and, on sloping lands, surface water runoff and soil losses. Phosphorus and nitrogen included in this runoff can cause eutrophication of fresh water bodies and negatively influence ecosystem function and public usage possibilities. Recovery from both soil loss and eutrophication is slow and there is much to be gained by preventing their occurrence. Farmers can improve the long-term productivity of their land and public perception of agricultural practices by minimizing these processes. Maintaining ground cover is a powerful tool in preventing soil degradation, runoff, and erosion.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives of this research are to quantify:
    -the amount of phosphorus, nitrogen, soil, and water losses in runoff
    -soil physical properties
    -ground cover
    -forage produced in the no-till corn silage and winter rye in kura clover living mulch

    I will measure differences between treatments with or without living mulch and with or without winter rye cover crop during the spring and early summer, before corn canopy closure, and in the fall after silage harvest, periods when living mulch or cover cropping could provide the greatest benefit. I will perform rainfall simulations of large storm events for runoff measurements, and contemporaneously measure ground cover, penetration resistance, and infiltration and collect samples for soil analysis, bulk density, antecedent moisture, and available water capacity. I will also measure yield and quality of corn and rye/kura clover silage. I anticipate the results of this study will lead to acceptance of this system as a means to minimize negative environmental impacts of corn silage production.

    The direct result of this study will be to relate the use of kura clover (Trifolium ambiguum M. Bieb.) living mulch, winter rye (Secale cereale L.) forage/cover cropping, and their combination in no-till corn (Zea mays L.) silage production to surface runoff and the physical properties of the soil. These characteristics will also be compared with percentage ground cover. These analyses, combined with treatment yields, will contribute to society's knowledge of living mulches, and kura clover in particular. A solid base of research is very important in attracting the interest of farmers because living mulches, not as yet widely used in row crop production, are a long-term cropping decision and some benefits, such as a reduction in nonpoint source pollution, are seen off-farm. Quantifying the effects of kura clover living mulch will also allow its use to be treated appropriately by governmental programs concerned with soil loss and pollution.

    Kura clover living mulch could make corn production in the Northern USA more sustainable. If widely implemented, its benefits could have a large effect on agricultural costs and environmental impacts given the amount of land used for corn production.

    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.