Weed Suppression by Grazed Winter Cover Crops with Varied Timing of Livestock Removal

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2021: $14,839.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Kansas State University
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Sarah Lancaster
Kansas State University


  • Agronomic: corn, rye, soybeans, triticale
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, winter forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    As resistant populations of weed species in Kansas continue to rise, there is a need to implement integrated weed management practices. Cover crops are known to suppress weed growth with the large amounts of biomass produced, the key factor that influences weed suppression. The proposed project will produce quantitative datpertaining to the level of weed suppression in fields where winter cover crops are grazed with cattle. This research project will take place in Eastern Kansas and focus on cereal rye. Since the relationship between cover crop biomass and weed suppression is observed throughout the region, data will be applicable to farmers across the North Central Region. 

    Before cattle enter the field, four paneled exclosures will be established to restrict cattle grazing. These restricted areas will be made of three panels (each 8ft long) that are fashioned in a triangle. Additional areas will be restricted at two-week intervals to collect data to determine if there is an effect on weed suppression due to timing of livestock removal from the field. Biomass will be collected each time exclosures are placed in the field. Once biomass is removed, it will be sorted and weighed to determine the differences between weed suppression and cover crop biomass production with different timings.  

     This data helps farmers make educated management decisions when it comes to the removal of grazing cattle off of winter cover cropsEducated management decisions early in the growing season will offeeconomic gain by balancing weed management costs later in the growing season with the value of beef production realized in the late winter and early spring. The outcomes of this project will be data-based recommendations on when to remove cattle from grazing cover crop biomass. This will in turn have both direct and indirect effects that will reduce weed populations, herbicide resistance, and overall herbicide applications. Through these outcomes, producer profitability will be increased as well as stewardship of the environment through profitable use of integrated weed management strategies. 


    Project objectives from proposal:

    The proposed project will provide a number of learning and action outcomes that revolve around profitabilitystewardship, and quality of lifeWith regard to learning outcomes, farmers and ranchers will increase profitability by learning when to remove cattle grazing cover crops to maximize weed suppressionIn regard to action outcomes, farmers and ranchers will improve environmental quality and stewardship by optimizing non-chemical weed control methods. An indirect effect that is anticipated is a decreased opportunity for herbicide runoff into the environment as well as reduce the amount of herbicide resistant weed populations in these areas. 

    The anticipated audience for the data are farmers utilizing winter cover crops who either graze their cattle or allow ranchers to graze cattle on cover crops. The farmers and ranchers whose operations are utilized and impacted directly by the project will be located in Kansas; however, the data will be applicable to growers throughout the North Central Region. Outcomes will be measured by surveying how likely a farmer or rancher who attends the field day demonstrations will be to take into consideration and adopt the recommendations provided. Additionally, extension specialists and educators will be surveyed to determine if producers in their district will be likely to adapt to recommendations and data provided to them. 

    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.