Improving the Rotational Value of Field Pea as a Legume Cover Crop.

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Eric BishopvonWettberg
University of Vermont


  • Agronomic: peas (field, cowpeas)


  • Animal Production: genetics
  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop improvement and selection, crop rotation, plant breeding and genetics
  • Soil Management: soil microbiology, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have utilized crop rotations as a method to maintain and improve soil fertility. Legume cover crops are widely used in rotations due to their ability to fix nitrogen, reduce pathogens, decrease soil erosion, and promote soil microbial diversity, all of which increase subsequent crop yields. Despite benefiting conventional and organic farmers, a single cover crop cannot achieve all desired cover cropping goals (fixing nitrogen, weed and pathogen suppression, promotion of microbial communities, etc.). Thus, farmers use multiple legume and non-legume cover crops to fulfill their goals; however, managing multiple cover crops can be time and labor intensive, resulting in lower farm profitability. The inefficiency of a single cover crop to achieve a vast set of goals is in part due to an insufficient amount of breeding effort to improve legume cover crops’ rotational value (how well the crop benefits a subsequently grown crop). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to assess the variation of traits — nitrogen fixation, organic matter deposition, microbiome assembly, etc. — associated with cover cropping goals within field pea, a popular cover crop and rotational legume. The data gathered from this experiment will lay the groundwork for improving the rotational value of legume cover crops, which in turn, will benefit farmers with efficient cover crops that will increase yields at lowered costs while simultaneously promoting sustainable agriculture.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The current proposal aims to benefit farmers by improving the rotational value of field pea, a legume cover crop. Therefore, this proposal has three major objectives:

    1. Determine the extent of variation of beneficial crop rotational traits (e.g. nitrogen fixation, nutrient mobilization, organic matter deposition) within multiple field pea accessions.

    2. Characterize the effect of field pea rotational trait variation on a subsequently grown crop under Northeastern U.S. conditions.

    3 Characterize the variability and functional activity of the shifted microbiome communities in the soil/rhizosphere between field pea accessions.

    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.