Perennial Turfgrass Cover Crops in Maize Production Systems

Turf grass as a cover crop
Land Management

Title:  Perennial turfgrass cover crops in maize production systems

Location:  Sorenson Research Farm, Ames

Time Period:  2019-2021

Research Team:  Shui-zhang Fei, Ken Moore, Andrew Lenssen, and Allen Chen

Project Description:  The current crop production system in the Midwest is highly productive but it negatively impacts the environment in a number of ways including non-point source nutrient pollution in waterways, soil erosion and declining soil quality. Growing annual cover crops can be a partial solution to these problems, however, the cost of annual planting, increased potential for corn root diseases, and the narrowed planting windows for subsequent crops continue to be hurdles to the widespread adoption of annual cover crops. Growing cool-season grasses with corn or soybean as perennial ground cover (PGC) provides similar benefits as annual cover crops but it does not require costly annual replanting or delayed planting of row crops. Many cool-season grasses that are commonly used as lawn grasses possess characteristics that make them ideal ground covers for maize and soybean: preference for cool, moist weather, shallow roots, good shade tolerance and winter hardiness. Our previous research indicated that Kentucky bluegrass grown concurrently with conventionally managed corn can produce comparable corn yields to a no-grass control, and Sandberg bluegrass which exhibits distinct summer dormancy can perform similarly. This proposal seeks to investigate the compatibility of PGC with maize by growing a diverse set of cultivars of Kentucky bluegrass and Sandberg bluegrass as PGC.  We will investigate above and below-ground nutrient dynamics and the potential of using PGC to reduce non-point nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Team members include Shuizhang Fei, professor of Horticulture, Andy Lenssen and Ken Moore, professors of Agronomy and Allen Chen, Ph.D. candidate.  


Funders:  Iowa Nutrient Research Center

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