Interseeding Cover Crops into Corn to Extend the Grazing Season and Improve Soil Health

Project Overview

Project Type: Research Only
Funds awarded in 2023: $196,105.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2026
Grant Recipient: USDA-ARS
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:


  • Agronomic: corn, grass (misc. annual), radish (oilseed, daikon, forage)
  • Vegetables: turnips
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management
  • Crop Production: cover crops, double cropping, intercropping, nutrient cycling, nutrient management
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Integrating crops and livestock enterprises can increase overall productivity of limited land bases that are typical of farms in the Northeast. Cover crops have been planted after harvest of crops such as small grains or corn silage to cover the soil over the winter and provide beneficial nutrients for subsequent crops. That said, some crops such as corn grain are harvested too late in the season for a cover crop to be established. Interseeding cover crops into growing corn has gained the interest of researchers and farmers as a method to provide a cover crop that is well established after the corn grain is harvested. Increasing feed and other input costs have farmers seeking lower-cost methods for feeding their livestock. There may be opportunity to better utilize the forage produced by the cover crops, such as grazing livestock on them to extend the grazing season and reduce feed costs. It is not yet known what the economic and environmental impacts of grazing these cover crops may have on subsequent crop production, nutrient use efficiency, or overall farm profitability. We hypothesize that interseeding annual forages into established corn fields will extend the forage production and grazing seasons, increase annual forage production per acre without impairing corn yield, reduce potential nitrogen loss, and increase nitrogen use efficiency of the crop system. To test this hypothesis, we will establish field plots and a grazing experiment to determine corn yield, interseeded forage yield, nutrient composition and uptake of corn and interseeded forages, and nitrogen use efficiency. Results of this research will provide farmers with practical recommendations on adoption of interseeding forages into growing corn to be grazed after corn grain harvest in the late fall and grazed again in early spring prior to corn planting.  

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Corn harvested as grain is taken too late in the season to establish a cover crop, therefore the land stands fallow over winter. Interseeding annual forages into established corn may act as a cover crop to reduce soil erosion and nitrate leaching. The objective of this project is to extend the forage production and grazing season through the utilization of grazed winter annuals and corn residue. Results of this research will provide farmers with novel management strategies to improve farm profitability and sustainability by increasing forage yield and nitrogen use efficiency along with decreasing feed costs. 

    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.