Self seeding: An innovative management system

April 15, 2008

Winter cover crops provide important ecological functions that include nutrient cycling and soil cover. Although cover crop benefits to agroecosystems are well documented, cover crop use in agronomic farming systems remains low. Winter cover crops are usually planted in the fall after cash crop harvest and killed the following spring before planting the next cash crop. Recent research has identified time and money as major impediments to farmer adoption of winter cover crops. Developing innovative cover crop management systems could increase the use of winter cover crops.

A scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service National Soil Tilth Lab and colleagues at Iowa State University investigated the potential for winter cereal cover crops to perpetuate themselves through self-seeding, thereby eliminating the cost of planting a cover crop each fall and time constraints between cash crop harvest and the onset of winter. Results from the study were published in the March-April 2008 issue of Agronomy Journal.

In the research investigation, winter rye, triticale, and wheat were planted and managed chemically and mechanically in varying configurations to facilitate self-seeding. After soybean harvest in the fall of 2004 and 2005, establishment and green ground cover of self-seeded winter cover crops was measured because of their important relationships with nutrient uptake capacity and soil erosion protection. The study revealed that plant establishment through self-seeding was generally accomplished within one week after soybean harvest. Green ground cover and self-seeding was consistently higher with wheat.

“The significance of this research, in addition to lowering the cost and risk of establishing cover crops, is to extend the ecological functions that cover crops perform beyond the normal cover crop termination dates between mid-April and early May,” says Dr. Jeremy Singer of the National Soil Tilth Lab. “Furthermore, producers using organic crop production techniques could adopt these systems because of the potential for enhanced weed suppression without soil disturbance.”

According to Singer, increasing the presence of cover crops on the landscape can increase nutrient capture and lower soil erosion, both of which can improve water quality.

Research is ongoing at the National Soil Tilth Lab to identify self-seeded cover crop systems that minimize competition with cash crops and maximize the effectiveness of self-propagation. The impacts of cover crops on soil quality in systems with biomass removal are also being investigated because cover crops can help offset the carbon and nutrient losses that occur when biomass is harvested in row crop production systems.

Source: American Society of Agronomy

Explore further: Root radar: Researchers discover how parasitic plants know when to attack

Related Stories

First applications from Sentinel-2A

July 28, 2015

From agricultural monitoring to charting changing lands, early images from Europe's new Sentinel-2A satellite show how the 'colour vision' mission's critical observations can be used to keep us and our planet safe.

'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

July 28, 2015

The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according ...

Recommended for you

How bees naturally vaccinate their babies

July 31, 2015

When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice—they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how ...

Earth flyby of 'space peanut' captured in new video

July 31, 2015

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

Exoplanets 20/20: Looking back to the future

July 31, 2015

Geoff Marcy remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck. Paul Butler remembers being dead tired. The two men had just made history: the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star.

New blow for 'supersymmetry' physics theory

July 27, 2015

In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.