Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

5-10 percent corn yield jump using erosion-slowing cover crops shown in ISU study

10.02.2012
The most recent annual results from a four-year Iowa State University study on using cover crops between rows of corn reveals that higher yields - by as much as 10 percent - are possible using the soil-saving approach to farming.

The results are the best yet in the ongoing research, according to Ken Moore, Distinguished Professor of agronomy and primary investigator on the project, who plans to carry on the trials for at least one more growing season.

Planting living mulch - or ground cover - between rows of corn is intended to perform several functions - maintain soil moisture, slow soil erosion, and sequester carbon.

There were factors in last year's weather that made the higher yields possible, according to Moore.

"This is really promising," said Moore of the results. "Last summer was hot, and the cover crop systems performed better because living mulch held the water in the soil better. It was the first year those ground covers went completely dormant. They weren't transpiring any water at all and they were serving as a barrier to moisture moving out of the soil, and that's good."

The study began with the 2008 growing season through support from a Sun Grant designed to look at the effect on the soil of removing corn stalks, cobs and leaves - called stover - to use as biomass for producing cellulosic-based ethanol.

After the 2010 planting season, funding for the project was exhausted, but Moore was able to carry on the tests on a limited basis, focusing only on those systems that showed the most promise.

Moore is working with Kendall Lamkey, chair of the Department of Agronomy and Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding, and Jeremy Singer, collaborator and assistant professor at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment on the study.

Removing the stover to make biofuel, it is feared, will reduce carbon in the soil and also speed erosion.

Moore says that the cover crop system helps solve both problems.

Moore and his group of researchers tested several different agronomic systems and cover crops to find which ones produce the best results.

In 2011, the three cropping systems tested included one that employed normal farming practices, a second system that used bluegrass as a cover crop and strip till practices, and a third that used red fescue as the cover crop and strip tilling.

When the results were tallied, Moore found the control plots averaged 220 bushels per acre, the bluegrass plots netted 230 bu./ac. and the fescue plots yielded 240 bu./ac.

In 2010 and 2009, the bluegrass and fescue plots averaged about the same yield as the control plot. The rainy spring of 2008 caused yields for the control to be much better, as the no-till plots were planted late in the year.

"This experiment wasn't designed to develop management practices for the farm, it was designed to test the feasibility of using these perennial ground covers for producing corn," said Moore.

"We would conclude these systems are feasible, but we recognize that it could be a somewhat brittle system. We've only tried it in one location, with one corn hybrid for four years. We don't know how it is going to perform in the entire state with different soils and different growing conditions."

Moore stresses that one goal of the study is to get corn breeders involved in a cover crop system so hybrids can be developed to work in concert with cover crops. The cover crops themselves can also be improved for better results.

Moore says that this cropping system might be appealing for farmers in the long term.

"Farmers make tough economic choices every year when they plant and harvest their crops," said Moore. "If changes need to be made to ensure future generations have the same great farm land and life that we do, we need to offer farmers choices that are not just to our benefit, but to their benefit as well.

"Growing corn with a perennial cover crop promises to address many of the environmental concerns being expressed about corn production and will enable farmers to harvest stover for bioenergy as that market develops. It appears to be a win-win opportunity. These cover crop systems may eventually offer the farmer a profitable alternative that can ensure long term success, at least that's my hope."

Ken Moore | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>