Evaluating the perennial living mulches in a silage corn production system in the Northeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2017: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/29/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Sid Bosworth
University of Vermont

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Crop Production: cover crops, no-till

    Proposal abstract:

    Corn silage fields on dairy farms have been implicated as significant sources of surface water nutrient loading.
    The soils of these fields are often left unprotected and susceptible to soil/nutrient loss for seven months per year.
    Cereal rye is increasingly being used as a cover crop, but is often planted too late in the season to significantly
    protect the soil until the following spring. Perennial living mulch (PLM) systems employ species such as white
    clover, kura clover, and crownvetch to provide groundcover year-round. The goal in a PLM/corn silage system is
    to kill the PLM in a narrow zone where the corn is no-till planted and to gently suppress it between the corn rows.
    It ‘bounces back’ in the fall to scavenge nutrients and protect the soil, and does so again in the spring prior to corn
    planting. The PLM concept has been shown to reduce soil and/or nutrient use/loss in corn silage production
    systems in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, with water being a limiting factor for corn yield in some years.
    We propose to evaluate three candidate PLM species/combinations to two controls in a corn silage production
    field in Vermont, where rainfall patterns are typically more favorable than other places the system has been tried.
    Our objectives are to 1) describe the impact of PLM on corn silage yield; 2) describe the ability of the PLM to
    cover the soil; and 3) determine if locally available technology is sufficient for establishing and managing PLM in
    corn silage.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Building on past work done by researchers in other states and incorporating relevant technology, we propose to
    explore corn silage production systems that employ perennial living mulches (PLM) to protect surface water and
    improve soil quality. Our goal is to increase the percent of in-season and post-harvest vegetative cover of corn
    silage fields in the Northeast.

    Questions we wish to answer include:
    1) to what extent (if any) do PLM impact corn silage yield an area of the Northeast where rainfall tends to be
    consistently higher and better distributed during the growing season than other regions of the U.S.
    2) at critical times of year do PLM cover the soil significantly more than approaches (i.e. cereal rye planted after
    corn harvest) currently used?; and
    3) does current locally available technology allow for efficient establishment and management of PLM systems?
    Our objectives are to:
    1) describe the impact of PLM on corn silage yield compared to two controls;
    2)describe the functionality (i.e., ability to cover the soil) of PLM compared to two controls; and
    3) determine if locally available technology is sufficient for establishing and managing PLM in corn silage.

    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.