Advancing the Frontier of Legume Cover Crops and Building Integrated System Resilience in Semi-arid West Texas

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2019: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/14/2021
Grant Recipient: Texas A&M University
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Reagan Noland
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: grazing management
  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems


    Adaptation and adoption of cover cropping practices has been extremely limited in semi-arid and arid western Texas. Potential exists for biological-fixed N to offset synthetic fertilizer inputs, and/or to produce high-quality forage for integrated animal systems. Research trials were coordinated on-farm (6 sites total) to assess warm- and cool-season legume species suitability for integration into existing crop rotations, as well as a warm-season legume demonstration at San Angelo. Warm-season cover crop species included mung bean, guar, sunn hemp, and three varieties of cowpea, with and without pearl millet. Cool-season cover crops included red clover, crimson clover, ‘Silver River’ sweet clover, arrowleaf clover, hairy vetch, and Austrian winter pea with and without cereal rye. On-farm warm season sites failed due to lack of rain in the late summer and fall of 2019, although the trial at San Angelo (spring planted) demonstrated Sunn hemp (4667 lbs ac-1) and cowpea (1839 lbs ac-1) as suitable warm-season legumes for the region. Cool-season trials highlighted hairy vetch, Austrian winter pea, and Silver River sweet clover as the best-suited winter legumes tested, with hairy vetch ultimately yielding similar to cereal rye. The legumes consistently exhibited superior forage nutritive value (high CP and low NDF) compared to rye, as well as lower C:N ratios. The cover crop practices tested in this project require further assessment, but demonstrate the potential to provide high-quality forages to supplement livestock production during critical periods, benefit the subsequent soil-crop interface, and enhance the resilience of overall farm systems.

    Project objectives:

    1. Assess the suitability of warm- and cool-season legume species and mixtures with corresponding grasses for integration into existing cotton and grain systems in West Central Texas.
    2. Quantify potential forage yield and nutritive value of cover crops to inform economic feasibility of integration.
    3. Measure cover/forage crop impact on subsequent crop nutrient uptake.
    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.