Interseeding Fall Catch Crops in Winter Wheat

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2017: $29,974.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Illinois
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Michelle Wander
University of Illinois


  • Agronomic: wheat


  • Crop Production: catch crops, cover crops
  • Education and Training: extension

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will collaborate with farmers eager to adopt cover crops as part of their rotation to improve their soil health and nutrient retention. Precipitation events during the fall, winter, and spring months leave agroecosystems vulnerable to nutrient loss and soil erosion. The majority of wheat growth occurs in the spring and therefore the soil is relatively bare in these fields during the fall and winter months. Interseeded winter killing catch crops can help fill this niche. Some regional farmers broadcast radishes or turnips with fall applied fertilizer prior to winter wheat, but little evidence is published on their influence on yield. With this project, on farm trials of winter killing companion crops interseeded in the fall planting of winter wheat will be hosted by Illinois wheat growers to gain information on practical implementation and agronomic benefits. Results will be highlighted on the annual Illinois Wheat Association farm tour, newsletter, and also serve as demonstration plots for area farmers. This research will directly benefit farmers in wheat growing regions and the implications will impact cool season grains producers, influence growers that fall apply fertilizer, and inform a larger framework for cover crop integration in rotation of field crops.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Objective: Determine the effect of interseeded catch crops on grain yield of winter wheat as a factor of species and intercepted Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR).
      • Monitor cumulative PAR in situ through fall months.
      • Sample biomass, test for N, P, and K uptake in early winter to estimate impact of catch crop on nutrient cycling.
      • Weed counts at boot stage will check for impact of catch crops on weed pressure.
    • Objective: Summarize economic cost of catch crop practices.
    • Objective: Increase grower knowledge and adoption of catch crops.
    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.