Integrating Perennial Living Mulches into Irrigated Cropping Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $146,684.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Joe Brummer
Colorado State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, oats, grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: stockpiled forages, winter forage, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: mulches - living
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Integrating living mulches into irrigated cropping systems may benefit producers in the western U.S. Mulch crops can be successfully co-established with corn or oats. White clover shows potential as a living mulch due to its positive effects on corn grain and silage yields when adequately suppressed. It also has high glyphosate tolerance. The combination of strip-tilling and use of glyphosate herbicide appears to be the most effective strategy for suppressing living mulches. Leguminous living mulches can reduce nitrogen fertilizer needs, but adequately suppressing the mulch to minimize annual crop yield losses while maintaining the perennial legume stand remains a challenge.

    Project objectives:

    1. Determine methods of establishing various perennial plant species potentially adapted for use as living mulches under irrigation.

    2. Evaluate methods of suppressing living mulches to avoid reduced yields of associated crops.

    3. Quantify the environmental and economic benefits of using living mulch systems under irrigation.

    4. Demonstrate the benefits of using living mulch systems for crop production under irrigation to producers through on-farm trials.

    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.