- Crop Production: cover crops, water management, water storage
Reducing weed pressure on crops without affecting soil health through intense and frequent tillage and cultivation practices is a major challenge in sustainable crop production. In recent years, cover crops are gaining importance as a sustainable practice that improves cropping system intensity and diversity as well as improving soil health and reducing weed pressure. However, few grain producers in the Southeast have included cover crops as part of their cropping systems because of several concerns. A major one being the possibility that cover crops may reduce the amount of water stored in the soil profile for the next grain crop, potentially reducing yields.
The objective of this study is to evaluate the common cover crops including grasses, legumes, and brassicas as single species or in mixtures and compare them with two control treatments: fallow with and without herbicide control in an on-farm trial.
Soil water content will be measured at 10, 20, 30, 40, 60 and 100 cm depths at biweekly intervals starting from cover crop establishment until one month after planting of next cash crop (soybean). Biomass will be measured at monthly intervals throughout the cover crop season. Cover crop water use efficiency will be estimated as the amount of dry biomass produced per unit of water used during the growing period. The study will provide information to develop grower recommendations on cover cropping to optimize biomass and soil moisture for subsequent crops.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1: Evaluate the common fall cover crops in SC for soil moisture retention, biomass production, and water use efficiency.