Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Corn yields with perennial cover crop are equal to traditional farming

26.07.2011
Soil quality, water quality, and possibly even farm profits will all benefit by using a perennial cover crop on corn fields that allows for similar yields to traditional farming methods, according to Iowa State University research.

Using standard agronomic practices and managing a perennial cover crop between rows of corn can keep soil, nutrients and carbon in the fields, a three-year study says. Plus, farmers will still be able to yield 200 bushels per acre, the study showed.

For the study, researchers looked at 36 potential ground cover species, different corn hybrids and various tillage practices and found that strip till planting using Kentucky bluegrass as the perennial cover crop is the combination the researchers will recommend to offer environmental benefits while maintaining yield.

Corn remains vigorous with little competition from Kentucky bluegrass.
Ken Moore, professor in ISU's Department of Agronomy, says that the system using Kentucky bluegrass with strip till yielded more than 200 bushels per acre, which was equal to the control plot, and might also be the easiest for farmers to accept.

"We evaluated all these ground covers and decided to work with Kentucky bluegrass, because it's as good as anything else," said Moore. "And Kentucky bluegrass is out in every lawn in Iowa. Every farmer grows it already. Every farmer knows how to kill it. We think farmers will be more likely to accept it as a ground cover."

Using ground cover to sustain and improve soil has become a focus of research because the need for biomass is increasing for use in producing biofuels.

Corn residue, or stover, usually remains on the ground after corn is harvested and helps reduce soil erosion and replenishes nutrients and organic matter.

The prospect of removing that stover to make biofuels causes many agronomists to fear that soil erosion will increase, while the remaining soil will suffer nutrient loss, says Moore.

Researchers received a Sun Grant for biobased research to identify ground covers that are compatible with corn, find corn that is competitive with the ground cover, and develop management systems that minimize competition between the corn and the ground cover. The Sun Grant Initiative is a national network of land-grant universities and federally funded laboratories working together to further establish a biobased economy.

Moore is pleased the results were so encouraging, but additional work is required before he and others recommend farmers try it.

"Yes, we can do it," Moore said of using perennial cover crops. "We don't know all the potential pitfalls of doing it. Under the circumstances that we tested, it does work."

Jeremy Singer, collaborator and assistant professor at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, says that he also sees a lot of potential.

"The bottom line is that with our best treatment, all three years we found yields in the control and yields in the Kentucky bluegrass with herbicide suppression and fall strip till were not different, which is very exciting," he said.

One focus of the research was to measure if cover crops help replace carbon in the soil that would be lost as stover is removed.

Using his own findings and examining previous research, Singer estimates that the Kentucky bluegrass treatment likely replaces as much carbon in the soil as stover would have, although he concedes that it is difficult to measure precisely.

And, the cover crops also provide at least 85 percent ground cover, meaning only 15 percent of the soil is exposed and susceptible to erosion, he said.

The cover crops also provide weed and insect suppression during the corn growing season, according to researchers.

To reduce competition between corn and Kentucky bluegrass, Moore said bluegrass needs to be chemically treated in the spring to force it into dormancy while the corn gets started.

Generally the two species co-exist well, said Moore.

"Growing two (or more) plants in one field is not a new idea. Ecosystems have been doing it for millennia," he said.

Prior to the Midwest becoming an agricultural powerhouse, the land supported many different species of plant -- each performing different functions for the soil and water quality. Now, we have just a few plant species dominating the landscape, each performing just one function, said Moore.

"In this study," Moore said, "we are trying to put those functions into a simple, easy-to-manage system that can have positive environmental impacts."

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

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Energy crop production on conservation lands may not boost greenhouse gases
13.03.2017 | Penn State

nachricht How nature creates forest diversity
07.03.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create artificial materials atom-by-atom

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers show p300 protein may suppress leukemia in MDS patients

28.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>