Influence of Spatial Planting Arrangement of a Cover Crop on Corn Productivity

Spatial planting arrangement of a winter cereal rye cover crop
Land Management

Title:  Influence of spatial planting arrangement of a winter cereal rye cover crop on corn productivity

Location:  Iowa State University Ag Engineering and Agronomy Farm, Boone

Time Period:  2018-2020

Research Team:  Alison Robertson, Tom Moorman and Andy Lenssen

Project Description: 

Issue: Winter cover crops have the potential to recycle nutrients, reduce nutrient contamination of surface waters, improve soil health, and increase the sustainability and resilience of our agricultural landscapes. Winter rye is one of the most widely used and successful cover crops in the Upper Midwest, but many farmers are reluctant to try winter rye for various reasons. Although soybean yield following a rye cover crop is usually the same or greater than without a cover crop, there have been reports of possible corn yield reductions following a rye cover crop. Winter rye is a known host of corn seedling pathogens and these pathogens can increase while the rye is dying.  Under cold and wet weather conditions, seedling disease may reduce stands or reduce the vigor of corn planted after winter rye.  Our previous research has shown that increasing the time between rye termination and corn planting reduces this. Additionally, our new preliminary research suggests that the closer corn is planted to the rye crown and the roots originating from it, the greater the chance it will be infected by pathogens from the dying rye resulting in seedling disease. New advancements in precision planting and guidance make controlling the spacing of rye cover crop plants and the following corn row feasible on a field scale.

Objective: This research will evaluate the effect of the proximity of winter rye crowns to corn growth and development with a view to improve our understanding of yield decline that may occur in corn planted after rye. We will examine treatment effects on (i) corn growth and development throughout the growing season, and yield, (ii) seedling disease and stalk rot development, and (iii) N recycling.

Publications:  Kurtz, S.M., Acharya, J.A., Kaspar, T.C., Moorman, T. and Robertson, A.E. 2019. Does the proximity of corn seedlings to terminated winter rye affect seedling disease development caused by Pythium species? (Abstr.). Phytopathology 109.S2.139.

Funders:  Iowa Nutrient Research Center and NC-SARE

Disclaimer:  This is an active research site, please contact the research team prior to planning any site visits.