N Impacts of Perennial Groundcover Systems

perennial groundcover between corn rows
Practice: 
Land Management

Title: Field Trials to Evaluate N Export from Perennial Groundcover Corn Systems

Location: Northeast Iowa Research and Demonstration Farm, Iowa State University

Time Period: 2020 - Present

Research Team: D. Raj Raman, Kenneth J. Moore, and Daniel A. Andersen

Project Description: Corn and soybean dominate the Midwestern landscape. Both are annuals, only present on the landscape for a fraction of the year. In their absence, they cannot intercept and protect soil from rainfall, nor can they slow runoff and promote infiltration. Members of the research team pioneered a perennial groundcover (PGC) system for corn, wherein a summer-dormant perennial groundcover, such as fescue, provides year-round soil cover. Managed correctly, the corn thrives because the cover is dormant in the summer. The PGC approach requires fewer late and early-season field activities, which are barriers to wider adoption of annual cover crops. Modeling predicts that PGC-corn can reduce runoff, enhance soil organic matter and reduce nitrogen leaching. However, further field research is needed to validate modeling to better understand the impact of a PGC-corn system on nitrogen loss. This project will provide experimental data that can be used to validate models and to estimate the potential impacts on nitrogen-export of widespread PGC-adoption. 

Publications:

Funders: Iowa Nutrient Research Center, complimentary funding from the Iowa Pork Producers Association started 9/1/21.

Disclaimer: This is an active research site; please contact D. Raj Raman (rajraman@iastate.edu) or Daniel S. Andersen (dsa@iastate.edu) prior to planning any site visits.